Can Solar Power Hurt the Environment?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Mojave Desert tortoise: concerned about the environment

An unusual clash has developed in the environmental movement between forces that are usually allied: advocates of renewable energy and supporters of wildlife habitats. In response to the Bureau of Land Management’s recently approved, large-scale solar projects for the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada, the National Park Service (NPS) has warned that the new solar power plants could cause significant damage to the region. Jon Jarvis, director of the Pacific West Region of the Park Service, asserts that the projects will use large amounts of water to clean and cool the solar panels, will produce air and light pollution and will generate too much noise, thus destroying the delicate desert ecosystem. While there has been no formal response from the BLM, they are conducting an environmental impact report that should be released this fall.

Wildlife supporters do not oppose the development of solar arrays, wind farms and geothermal plants to help alleviate the nation’s dependency on foreign oil, but they hope the sites will be on land already disturbed, instead of the few remaining relatively untouched preserves. For example, Defenders of Wildlife suggests that such projects would be better suited to the more than 250,000 abandoned mines on public lands in the West.
Currently, the BLM and the NPS are working on more than 400 applications for federal land for solar and wind projects, which would cover approximately 2.3 million acres of various Western states, but could produce enough energy to power over 50 million homes.
-Jackie Gallegos, David Wallechinsky
Park Servie Protests Big Solar Expansion in Nevada Desert (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)


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