In the video above, a contractor for BrightSource Solar destroys desert vegetation, including a cluster of Yucca that are probably 400-800 years old.
Interior's Supplement to the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement attempts to encourage industrial solar development in identified "solar energy zones" (SEZs) totaling over 1,057 square miles, but Interior's preferred alternative would still allow solar developers to build facilities on over 31,000 square miles of other lands (known as "variance areas") if they meet certain requirements. But 1,070 square miles of solar applications would be exempt from the requirements because they were filed before the policy was proposed last October. Many worry that the policy still leaves many of our public lands vulnerable to destructive projects, resulting in continued significant environmental impacts, uncertainty for citizens that cherish public lands, and solar projects being challenged in court.
Partial Map of Lands Targeted for Solar Development
Some national environmental groups -- including the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife -- responded to the proposed policy calling for stricter requirements to keep solar development in the SEZs and adding widlife corridors to a list of areas where solar development would not be allowed (known as "exclusion areas"). Interior is under pressure from industry, however, to allow wide access to public lands. The industry's record so far shows little respect for environmental concerns, as some companies continue to propose large projects in ecologically core areas.
Solar Done Right and a coalition of other groups argued that the solar siting policy still seeks to maximize the industrialization of public lands, ignoring more efficient priorities. Solar Done Right's comments explain that our clean energy future should focus on energy efficiency, incentives for distributed generation (such as solar on rooftops or over parking lots), and utility-scale solar on already-disturbed lands, such as those identified in the EPA's RE-powering America's Land initiative.
|Solar panels using space that is otherwise wasted, providing the double benefit of generating clean energy, and shade for the parking lot. Photo by Basin and Range Watch.|