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Solar Power’s Land Grab Hits a Snag: Environmentalists: Mojave Desert residents say they support clean energy, but not giant projects, citing threat to tortoises and views

Summary:
Another case of tradeoffs. We might want more solar power but we might have to give up some other environmental goalBy Jim Carlton of The WSJ. Excerpts:"This windswept desert community is full of clean energy supporters including Suzanne Rebich, an airline pilot who recently topped her house with 36 solar panels. About 200 homes generate their own solar energy and a quarter of the local electricity supply comes from hydroelectric power. All the same, many here are dead set against a planned solar plant atop the Mormon Mesa, which overlooks this valley 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Slated to be the biggest solar plant in the U.S., the Battle Born Solar Project by California-based Arevia Power would carpet 14 square miles—the equivalent of 7,000

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Another case of tradeoffs. We might want more solar power but we might have to give up some other environmental goal

By Jim Carlton of The WSJ. Excerpts:

"This windswept desert community is full of clean energy supporters including Suzanne Rebich, an airline pilot who recently topped her house with 36 solar panels. About 200 homes generate their own solar energy and a quarter of the local electricity supply comes from hydroelectric power.

All the same, many here are dead set against a planned solar plant atop the Mormon Mesa, which overlooks this valley 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Slated to be the biggest solar plant in the U.S., the Battle Born Solar Project by California-based Arevia Power would carpet 14 square miles—the equivalent of 7,000 football fields—with more than a million solar panels 10 to 20 feet tall. It would be capable of producing 850 megawatts of electricity, or roughly one-tenth of Nevada’s current capacity.

“It will destroy this land forever,” Ms. Rebich, 33, said after riding her bicycle on the 600-foot high mesa.

Across the U.S., more than 800 utility-scale solar projects are under contract to generate nearly 70,000 megawatts of new capacity"

"More than half this capacity is being planned for the American Southwest, with its abundance of sunshine and open land.

These large projects are increasingly drawing opposition from environmental activists and local residents who say they are ardent supporters of clean energy. Their objections range from a desire to keep the land unspoiled to protection for endangered species to concerns that their views would no longer be as beautiful."

"Conservationists say clean energy shouldn’t come at the cost of damaging the environment or threatening endangered species. The Sierra Club, which describes itself as “a relentless advocate for the decarbonization of the electric grid via renewable energy sources,” is one of several environmental groups opposing a 690-megawatt solar plant on prime desert tortoise habitat off Interstate 15 about 35 miles northeast of Las Vegas."

"Solar generation has grown to 4.5% of the nation’s electricity supply from 0.1% in 2010"

"activists have blocked or are seeking to block projects in Nevada, Washington, Indiana and Virginia.

Similar battles have broken out over other big renewable energy projects, such as offshore wind turbines in places including Martha’s Vineyard, which on May 11 received a go-ahead from the Interior and Commerce departments 12 years after state and federal officials first started the process of building there.

San Bernardino County, Calif., which lists renewable energy as a foundation of its move toward sustainable development, in 2019 put the brakes on new proposals for large solar projects near more than a dozen rural communities, where residents complained of potential dust."

"Solar-industry executives say they construct their projects responsibly and that building them fast can help combat climate change."

"In 2009, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein—a longtime supporter of renewable energy—introduced a bill to create the Mojave Trails National Monument on one million acres to safeguard pristine desert where several solar plants had been planned. The bill didn’t try to stop those plants altogether, just redirect them onto private property and public lands that had already been disturbed, such as by grazing. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in 2016."

"The $1 billion project, known as Gemini, would, like Battle Born, be developed by Glendale, Calif.-based Arevia and connect to the NV Energy Inc. transmission system."

"Kevin Emmerich, co-founder of the Nevada-based Basin and Range Watch environmental group.believes big solar projects represent a threat to a desert landscape he has worked for decades to protect. In particular, he worries about the impact on the threatened desert tortoise"

"Mr. Emmerich suggested the panels needed to run the Gemini plant could instead be installed atop buildings in Las Vegas—a possibility industry officials call too spread out to be economical."

"More common are the local residents who formed a group called Save Our Mesa and began campaigning against the site on Facebook, in sign-waving protests and at a public meeting held at a community center in Overton last October. Among their other concerns: more dust and hotter temperatures from the solar operation, as well as destruction of the mesa and the tourism industry it supports."

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