Solar Power: Overview

Peter Maloney writes in his article, ” Environmentalists Against Solar Power” that solar power projects are facing major scrutiny, not from the coal or oil industry, but from environmentalists. Maloney says that Southern California is pushing for solar power in the desert cause the amount of sunlight with virtually no clouds, “but its also the home to the Mojave ground squirrel, the desert tortoise and the burrowing owl, and to human residents”. Maloney also states that the US Bureau of Land Management says that it had applications submitted for solar power that would cover 78,490 acres in the desert. For the entire US, the number of applications grew from zero two years ago to more than 125 with enouch potential electrical power of 70,000 megawatts or the equivalent to 70 large coal plants.
The rush to try and get this land is caused by a California Law that calls for 20 percent of the state’s electricity must come from renewable resources by 2010. Jim Harvey, who is the founder of the Alliance for Responsible Energy Policy, is quoted by Maloney saying, ” Our position is that none of this is needed. We support renewable energy, and we support California’s renewable energy targets, but we think it can be done through rooftop solar”.
Harvey also pointed out the success that Germany was having by using rooftop solar panels. The way it works is that the government offers payments for electricity generated from solar panels. The payment is roughly 50 cents per kilowatt hour. The average payment in the US in 11 cents per kilowatt hour, but the payments would not be as high as the German payments here.

Maloney goes on to say not only would the solar panels destroy habitats, it would run the deserts small water supply, as it is, even more scarce. The mirror and solar panels would have to be washed, and some panels use turbines which would require more water.
Terry Frewin, chairman of the Sierra Club’s California/Nevada desert commitee, says that ” solar panels destroy all natice resources on site, and have indirect and irreversible impacts on surrounding wilderness”. At the current rate of adding 200 megawatts of rooftop solar panels a year, it would take “100 years to meet the 20 percent renewable [target set] by California”.
The first major debate over a large solar power project was over the 250 acres of land, which was on the outskirts of Victorville, California, on the western side of the Mojave that was gonna be used for the solar panels. Inland hired people to look for the endangered ground squirrel and desert tortoise. No squirrels were found but some tortoises were, so the Inland, cmpany building the panels, said for every acre of lost habitat they would buy one acre of land to offset it. Although it would cost some “6.5 million to 10 million dollars” to buy the offsetting acreage.

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