Monday, October 19, 2009

Battle of Enviro-Whacks -- Solar vs Species & Plants

(FlashReport h/t)

See my previous post (click the photo) where you find this quote:

  • Again, the big concerns seem to be moderately high energy costs to build solar panels, and considerable toxic waste exposure issues in making and disposing of solar panels. By the European Union's estimate, these are greater concerns than nuclear waste or nuclear accidents.

Several companies seek to build renewable-energy facilities on public land -- a goal backed by the White House -- but the slow permit process and fears over imperiled species have hindered construction.

Reporting from El Centro, Calif. - Across the desert flatlands of southeastern California, dozens of companies have flooded federal offices with applications to place solar mirrors on more than a million acres of public land.

But just as some of those projects appear headed toward fruition, environmental hurdles threaten to jeopardize efforts to further tap the region's renewable energy potential.

The development of solar-power facilities in the desert has been a top priority of the Obama administration as it seeks to ease the nation's dependence on fossil fuels and curb global warming. In addition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has urged that the state meet one-third of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020.

Companies are racing to finalize their permits and break ground by the end of next year, which would qualify them to obtain some of the $15 billion in federal stimulus funds designated for renewable energy projects. At stake is the creation of 48,000 jobs and more than 5,300 megawatts of new energy, enough to power almost 1.8 million homes, according to federal land managers.

But the presence of sensitive habitat, rare plants and imperiled creatures such as desert tortoises, bighorn sheep and flat-tailed horned lizards threatens to stall or derail some of the projects closest to securing permits.

"There are significant environmental issues involved in the California gold rush-like scenario unfolding in the desert," said Peter Galvin, conservation director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "We are not going to just roll over when critical wild lands and last habitats of endangered species are in the mix."