The Obama administration has identified 285,000 acres of western public lands on which to create solar zones and develop the alternative energy source, but the plan faces opposition from environmentalists who say it will harm the planet. The blueprint for the solar energy zones calls for 17 large-scale projects that it predicts would create 5,900 megawatts of energy to provide electricity to nearly two million homes.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says their plan will facilitate a faster and smarter utility-scale development on land that has been deemed suitable for solar projects. “This is a key milestone in building a sustainable foundation for utility-scale solar energy development and conservation on public lands over the next two decades,” Salazar said in the July 24th joint statement. The plan also calls for additional solar development on 19 million acres of so-called “variance” areas outside of the solar zones. In total, it could create enough renewable energy to power seven million homes, federal officials say.
But several environmental groups led by the Western Lands Project (WLP) filed a protest with the Interior Department on Aug. 24 calling the plan “deficient,” citing evidence they say suggests that disturbing the soil will release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The groups also cite the relocation or other mitigation efforts to offset the effects on threatened and endangered species as a “severe, unresolved concern.”
Instead of public landscapes, the environmentalists want the solar projects to be constructed on the rooftops of residential and commercial buildings and parking lots. “By converting public lands to industrial energy factories in fragile, remote areas with massive requirements for transmission at great cost to ratepayers and the environment.
The solar zones are located in six states including California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah on property controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. Constructing the solar projects on the public lands chosen will provide “good” potential for transmission and “relatively low conflict” with nature as well as cultural and historic resources, federal officials say.
However, environmentalists say that is not enough. “Massive solar power plants pose irreversible, long-term, cumulative ecosystem and species level threats to fragile desert and grassland biomes.”
Sources: human events, Audrey hudson