Desert Vistas vs. Solar Power

The race to build solar power plants and wind farms once again treats the west as a wasteland. Senator Dianne Feinstein leads a resistance movement and the power companies are surprised to find the Mojave wilderness has value.

“This is arguably the best solar land in the world, and Senator Feinstein shouldn’t be allowed to take this land off the table without a proper and scientific environmental review,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmentalist and a partner with a venture capital firm that invested in a solar developer called BrightSource Energy. In September, BrightSource canceled a large project in the monument area.

Union officials, power industry executives, regulators and some environmentalists have also expressed concern about the impact of the monument legislation, but few would speak publicly for fear of antagonizing one of California’s most powerful politicians.

The debate over the monument encapsulates a rising tension between two goals held by environmental groups: preservation of wild lands and ambitious efforts to combat global warming.

Not only is the desert land some of the sunniest in the country, and thus suitable for large-scale power production, it is also some of the most scenic territory in the West. The Mojave lands have sweeping vistas of an ancient landscape that is home to desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, fringe-toed lizards and other rare animals and plants.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/22/business/energy-environment/22solar.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

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