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BLM Advances World’s Largest Solar Farm In CA

BLM Advances World’s Largest Solar Farm In CA

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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59 comments

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12:11PM PDT on Jun 15, 2012

Please put solar on every house or in every back yard, and only in already developed areas that are not causing harm to people and the earth.

11:51AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

Low tech...need to advance...think quntium physics...

4:59AM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

OK lets think about "Decentralizing" all power sources so we can get as far away from "Big Money" as is possible. How about putting coal or oil fired mini-plants on all of these "willing" roof tops Bert C. suggests for solar panels ! This makes as much sense as forbidding the installations of large solar farms in small portions of public owned lands in desert areas. I take the position that we, the public who owns the land, get to study and debate the environmental imact before we run around exclaiming the sky is falling. The only group mentioned in the article whose interests should be considered paramount in the decision making is that of Indigenous native groups who have a valid concern about actual culturally important sites. If the additional power is actually needed, then before we make the decision against a large solar farm, we should consider the real world alternatives of the traditional fossil fuel plants that would be built somewhere nearby to fulfill the needs of people now and in the future. Consider that first, before throwing the baby out with the bath water.

3:56AM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

On the one hand a huge solar project is at least an improvement over a fossil fuel project of similar size. On the other hand, I don't see why it is not possible to work out some system for encouraging large fossil fuel firms to invest in solar power systems mounted on roof tops both residential and commercial and on poles over parking lots. That way the fossil fuel firm could get at least as good a return on the solar power as it would have on the fossil fuel it would replace, the building-owner would have to get a little something for providing space for the power installation, and the local utility would have to get something as middleman. But even with all that, it would still be cheaper in the long run than either unmitigated global warming or the disruption to wild life habitat caused by large-scale solar power projects out in those habitats.

2:16AM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Thanks for sharing!

9:30PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Let me add my thanks to Bert C., Pat M. and Edo F., among others,
for making the economic democracy case against centralizing green
energy so I didn't have to. (You did it better anyway.) I have only a
few words to add for those who think our choices are limited to Big
Fossil Fuels or Big Solar:

Hunter and Amory Lovins;
Herman Daly;
E.F. Schumacher.

7:48PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

thanks for telling the world

5:29PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Geoff, it's the potential loss of both prettiness and plant life. Not plant life considered merely as biomass but, rather, as scientific ecology requires, as biological diversity. Size, whether measured in mass, kilowatts, acreage or dollars, isn't everything, even in the context of sustainable energy. Maybe especially in that context.

"Biggest" is seldom best.

I wouldn't be so fast to dismiss "pretty," either. "Pretty" in this case implies a human capacity to respond positively to qualities of the natural world. That is to respond to and to value the natural world for itself. If people value something, they're more likely to make the effort to try to save it. Presumably that's something green energy advocates - even those who make a mere business of it - want.

ii q.: One too many i's - aptly.
Anyway, you ask, "what else would the desert/land be used for?"
For being desert, naturally.



4:46PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

California, man, it's so sunny here, everyone should have a panel on top of their homes! But that would mean the grid would lose out on money, right. And its not about providing for the people, it's about providing for their own, already overflowing pockets! And in the meantime where do the taxes go to? Pointless wars.

12:14PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Thanks for the article.

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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