Photos of Solar Done Wrong

Despite a UCLA study indicating that the County of Los Angeles has enough suitable rooftop space for solar panels to meet local energy demand, the State of California and Bureau of Land Management are permitting unprecedented destruction of America's desert landscapes for utility-scale solar facilities hundreds of miles away from urban areas.   One of those projects is First Solar's Desert Sunlight facility that will cover nearly 6 square miles of ecologically intact public lands right next to Joshua Tree National Park.

The Desert Sunlight project would generate about 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity.  For comparison, California's peak electricity demand has reached nearly 52,800 MW.  Meeting our energy needs with projects like Desert Sunlight would require over 100 more of such destructive facilities. And then repeat this destruction in every other state to meet their energy demands.  This is madness and simply unsustainable.

Author Chris Clarke recently had the opportunity to fly over and photograph the early stages of Desert Sunlight's construction.  The photo below shows land bulldozed for the project.  I have added red lines along the contours of the project site and a nearby mountain to compare to a zoomed out Google Earth image that shows how much bigger this destructive project will get:

(Click on image to expand) Photo by Chris Clarke.  Bulldozers have only cleared a fraction of the land required by First Solar's Desert Sunlight project. I added the red lines to compare to the Google Earth image below.

This Google Earth image shows the overall size (white and black image overlay) that the Desert Sunlight project will eventually reach.  The lines in red show the area of construction visible in Chris Clarke's photo, with other lines following the contours of the mountain also visible in Chris' photo.  Much more desert will be flattened as construction continues.

Another photo by Chris Clarke shows what this site looked like from the ground (before construction) -- desert washes wind their way through creosote bush scrub and microphyll woodland habitat where one could find desert tortoise, burrowing owls, foxtail cactus, and Swainson's hawks.
Photo by Chris Clarke


  1. Six square miles will host about 1.5 million solar panels. You don't need a degree in science when you look at the maps to know that placing these things in the desert is going to have unintended concequences. Destroying habitat and increasing the avg temps. 1.5 million panels is going to take a lot of water to keep clean,,, and keeping them clean is imparitive to their operation. Whoa,,, I just realized something,,, they are putting all of this stuff in the desert to make global warming a reality! That is why they refuse to talk about rooftop solar energy. This is all just an insane money grab.


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