On the surface it sounds like a great idea: use public lands in Southern California to build the world’s largest solar power project. Unfortunately, there are some who feel that any development of the land, even for such a noble purpose, is unacceptable.
The McCoy Solar Energy Project, which would sit on 7,700 acres of public land in the Colorado Desert, about 13 miles northwest of Blythe, Calif. When fully operational it would have the capacity to produce 750 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power more than 260,000 homes.
Although the Bureau Of Land Management (BLM)is advancing the project, it’s likely to meet with opposition from environmental groups and American Indian working to stop already approved, large-scale renewables projects in the area.
Typically, the construction of a solar farm is met with applause from those who value the planet and want to move our nation away from fossil fuel dependence. But as these activists have pointed out, any disruption of an ecosystem, even for the construction of a solar power plant, has dire consequences for the flora and fauna who already live there.
Last week, BLM announced in a Federal Register notice that it has completed a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the site. The EIS will be open for public comment through Aug. 23, said Greg Miller, the supervisory projects manager with BLM’s renewable energy coordination office in Moreno Valley, Calif.
In the past two years, BLM has approved eight solar projects in Southern California that, collectively, would cover more than 31,000 acres and, if built, would produce as much as 4,000 MW of electricity — enough to power roughly 1.2 million homes. Surprisingly environmental groups like Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Club have all filed lawsuits against the projects, stating that they are too delicate to withstand such large-scale projects. Likewise, a collection of lawsuits have been filed by American Indian activist groups concerned about the projects’ effects on cultural sites.
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