Save the Desert Tortoise from Big Energy

  • by: Solar Done Right
  • recipient: Bureau of Land Management and the California Energy Commission
We are urging our State and Federal decision makers to take a more responsible approach to renewable energy by directing large-scale development to land that is already disturbed, and encouraging rooftop solar.  The current renewable energy strategy could decimate our desert ecosystem and drive the desert tortoise to extinction.  Please sign our petition to tell policymakers that we can generate renewable energy without destroying the environment.

The State of California and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are allowing large-scale solar energy projects on pristine public land, displacing and killing endangered desert tortoises and fragmenting California's desert ecosystem.  Current plans would result in the destruction of as much as 600 square miles of public land and tortoise habitat to meet renewable energy demands in California.  A single 5.6 square mile project recently approved by the BLM and California is expected to displace or kill at least 32 desert tortoises.

For more information, visit www.SolarDoneRight.org, and keep track of renewable energy projects on www.basinandrangewatch.org and www.mojavedesertblog.com
We the undersigned, urge our State and Federal decision makers to take a responsible approach to the approval of renewable energy development by steering utility-scale solar energy projects to already-disturbed lands or by encouraging distributed generation, also known as rooftop solar.  The current State and Federal strategy to meet America's renewable energy needs by sacrificing public land and endangered species to energy companies is not the answer to global warming--it is a destructive shortcut that betrays our obligation as stewards of public lands.

Relying on utility-scale solar is a losing strategy that would require nearly 600 square miles of open space to meet just California's energy needs; it is a strategy that deprives the American public of the very environment we seek to protect.  The California Energy Commission (CEC) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have already approved several utility-scale solar energy projects in California's desert in a hasty effort to meet 33% of California's energy needs with renewable energy by 2020.  
  • The sheer size of these utility-scale facilities creates barriers between wildlife populations and disrupts ages old migration patterns.  The necessary connections between metapopulations (groups of local populations) may be disrupted.  As local wildlife populations are lost or isolated, genetic linkages are lost and the survivability of the population is jeopardized.
  • For example, BrightSource Energy's solar power project in the Northeastern Mojave Desert alone consumes 5.6 square miles of public land and could displace or kill at least 32 endangered desert tortoises, according to the BLM and Fish and Wildlife Service.
Federal funds used to support this destructive strategy would be better spent on expanding incentive programs for rooftop solar development. The Federal government has committed 1.37 billion dollars in loan guarantees for a single utility-scale solar power project on public land in the Mojave Desert.  The Department of Energy and US Treasury have also offered grants for big energy companies that would cover 30% of costs for destructive utility-scale projects.  Those funds should be redirected to expand rooftop solar incentive programs like the Residential Renewable Energy Tax credit or the California Solar Initiative.  Rooftop solar investments create maintenance, installation and training jobs while protecting the environment.
  • Exemplifying the opportunity America is missing by ignoring rooftop solar, Germany installed nearly 4,000MW of distributed generation in its urban areas in 2009, and may install as much as 6,000MW in 2010, creating a system that enables homeowners to profit from unused energy generated by their rooftop solar, and reducing costly transmission lines.
Our State and Federal decision makers should require that future utility-scale renewable energy projects should be built on land that is already disturbed, thereby reducing the damage to ecosystems and wildlife.  Only two utility-scale solar power projects approved by California in 2010 were proposed for disturbed land previously and will have relatively low impact on the environment.  This wisdom should be standard practice, not the exception.

Utility-scale solar on public land is a shortcut that ensures profits for energy companies that will unnecessarily damage our environment.  The State and Federal Government should stop permitting utility-scale projects on pristine public lands, and implement a strategy that requires projects to be built on disturbed lands and invests more in rooftop solar.
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