Collaboration is Needed for Responsible Renewable Energy Development

“It seems there is no dearth of negative articles about insensitive solar developers and here is yet another one in in the LA times this week. The article says that, because of the impacts of very large solar projects on the desert environment and on Native American burial sites, solar developers, federal and state governments and Native American tribes are headed for a showdown of complicated and competing values.

These developers are giving all developers a bad name. We don’t need fast track permitting from the government to push gigantic solar developments in environmental and historic areas. And we actually don’t need Federal loan guarantees. What we do need is an understanding that we are tied together with the same goal of respecting the world we live in. And, we need to come up with policies that will support the generation of renewable energy where we need it: close to load centers, in or near urban areas, on roof tops, parking lots, landfills and brown fields. We need generation close to where the power is to be used, in areas that are already developed, which aren’t ecologically, culturally or historically sensitive.

The article raises a false dichotomy, a Hobson’s choice, framing the question as if we can have renewable energy or be sensitive to Native American concerns or environmental concerns. By developing solar and other renewables in urban and suburban areas, we can have our renewable energy without sacrificing other important needs and interests.

Government, tribes and developers can and should work together to come up with the best solution …distributed renewable energy generation done with the least possible negative impacts.”

— Peter Weich, Absolutely Solar Inc.

Discovery of Indian Artifacts Complicates Genesis Solar Project by Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times

The Feb. 27 letter from the chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes was pleading and tough. It asked President Obama to slow the federal government’s “frantic pursuit” of massive solar energy projects in the Mojave Desert because of possible damage to Native American cultural resources.

The Obama administration didn’t respond. But four days after Chairman Eldred Enas sent the letter, the Indians say they found an answer, delivered by spirits of the desert.

Howling winds uncovered a human tooth and a handful of burned bone fragments the size of quarters on a sand dune in the shadow of new solar power transmission towers. Indians say the discovery is evidence of a Native American cremation site not detected in Southern California Edison’s archaeological survey before the towers were built.

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Environmentalists Feeling Burned by Rush to Build Solar Projects

“Clean energy is our greatest hope for improving the quality of life for all creatures. There is a learning process to all new technological advancement. We need to collaborate and focus on ways to help renewable energy be developed in ways that are scalable to our communities and our environment.” 

The negative environmental impacts of desert solar are mostly caused by very large solar farms.  Smaller, widely distributed PV on rooftops, landfills, parking lots and other wasteland CLOSE TO LOAD will bring all the benefits of distributed renewable energy without damaging our natural resources.”

— Peter Weich,  Absolutely Solar Inc. 

Environmentalists Feeling Burned by Rush to Build Solar Projects by Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times

April Sall gazed out at the Mojave Desert flashing past the car window and unreeled a story of frustration and backroom dealings.

Her small California group, the Wildlands Conservancy, wanted to preserve 600,000 acres of the Mojave. The group raised $45 million, bought the land and deeded it to the federal government.

The conservancy intended that the land be protected forever. Instead, 12 years after accepting the largest land gift in American history, the federal government is on the verge of opening 50,000 acres of that bequest to solar development.

Even worse, in Sall’s view, the nation’s largest environmental organizations are scarcely voicing opposition. Their silence leaves the conservancy and a smattering of other small environmental organizations nearly alone in opposing energy development across 33,000 square miles of desert land.