Let the Large-Scale Solar Power Backlash Begin: Objections to California Solar Plans Mounting?

mojave desert photo

It's not quite as simple as just plopping a solar power plant out in the Mojave... photo: Thomas via flickr

With all this talk about placing large solar power plants (either solar PV arrays, or solar thermal facilities) out in the desert, or in similarly wild places, of California—and with Sen. Feinstein's proposal to make 500,000 acres of the Mojave into a solar power no-go zone—the debate about whether we should really be sacrificing large areas of wilderness to satisfy our seemingly insatiable desire for more energy is heating up. Here are some quick excerpts I've noticed over the past couple of days:The Desert + Solar Panels = Cleaning Nightmare
The Infrastructurist brings up a very good (and often overlooked) point about developing solar power in the desert, as well as really raising the central question in the debate:

Where are we going to get 10,000 or 20,000 square miles of desert to do all this? The assumption — much like that of the early American pioneers — is that there are vast tracts of land somewhere out there in the West waiting to be put to our use. Has anybody ever heard the term "environmental impact?" Is it even conceivable that you can mark off this much land on the map and not come across some endangered species?

Here's another consideration that you never hear about. One of the biggest problems with solar mirrors and photovoltaic panels is they get covered with dust and grim and lose much of their effectiveness. They have to be washed off frequently. Where, in the middle of the desert, do you find enough water to wash down 10,000 square miles of solar collectors at least once a month?

That said, I won't leap to the conclusion that author then makes about nuclear power looking increasingly good: Although he's right in saying that you can produce a whole heck of a lot of power in a small area, there seem to be so many other issues, environmental and financial, with it that we really ought to be looking elsewhere for solutions to our energy problems.

San Luis Obispo County on the Frontlines
Time Magazine also highlights some of the problems with developing large-scale solar power. This time its a combination of NIMBYism and what I think are valid concerns about preserving wilderness.

Focusing on solar power plans in San Luis Obispo County, the complaints range those of Mike Stronbridge who says "these solar guys are going to come in, and they're just gonna [sic] destroy the area," and then goes on to worry about the effect on of the power plants on the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and on the region's water supply.

John McKenzie, a planner for San Luis Obispo County sums up the issues in the region: Protecting of biological resources, water-supply concerns and agricultural protections. The big thing McKenzie says is that the County pretty much has no experience dealing with these sort of issues, as they relate to developing solar power. And while the county is trying to proceed as efficiently as possible in evaluating these concerns, there could be "a whole slew" of stumbling blocks in the way of actually bringing these solar power plants online.

via: The Infrastructurist, Time Magazine
Solar Power
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850 MW Solar Thermal Power Plant Seeks California State Approval
BrightSource to Build 500 Megawatts of Solar-Thermal Power in Mojave Desert
Sen. Feinstein Wants to Prohibit Renewable Energy Development in 500,000 Acres of the Mojave

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