As we advocate for a clean energy future, we should ask ourselves if we're willing to take shortcuts that destroy the things we love -- unspoiled landscapes and biodiversity -- or take the responsible path of generating clean energy where we live or on already-disturbed lands. What is missing in the Los Angeles Times article is a discussion of these responsible options. Many people commenting on the article take a black and white approach, either you have desert-destroying solar or you have catastrophic climate change. But in the midst of a heated debate, very few people recognize what fossil fuels and large-scale desert solar and wind facilities have in common -- an insatiable appetite for land. An appetite for the landscapes and wildlife we cherish.
|A bulldozer clears land in northwestern United States for a sing wind turbine. The wind energy production tax credit has kept the wind industry afloat, and attracted Wall Street investors. Wind projects have spread from the farmlands of the midwest, and are now beginning to industrialize public lands across the West. The wind industry is more intent on growing its profit than protecting ecosystems.|
|[Click on image to expand] This photo shows the footprint of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar project, being built on 5.6 square miles of intact desert habitat in the northeastern Mojave Desert. California has already installed enough rooftop solar energy to avoid four Ivanpah Solar projects.|
We should redirect the tax breaks and subsidies away from Shell Oil and BrightSource Energy, and give our neighbors a chance to install rooftop solar, or improve their energy efficiency. We can save on energy bills, make our communities more sustainable, and save wildlands for future generations. Nobody said the right path would be easy or cheap, but it does not have to be greedy, either.
|A school district in southern California installed solar panels over the parking lot, generating clean energy and savings on its utility bill. Best of all, no extra land had to be destroyed to support the school's energy needs.|