Clean Energy, at What Cost?

by Patrick Morency

Recently, I was doing a little investigation into some of the large-scale solar farms being developed out West, especially in the deserts. I came across an interesting article about the race to build utility-scale renewable energy facilities in the Mojave desert. Now, when building a site such as the one in Palmdale, California, the land is stripped of vegetation, fenced in, and basically becomes an industrial site. In their rush to put the federal stimulus money to use, developers in California were unable to really study the ecosystem and proceed with caution during what they called an ‘eco-friendly’ endeavor.

There are many species living in the desert, some of which are very specialized to that particular environment, and large-scale renewable energy projects destroying their respective ecosystems leave these creatures, who have already been pushed beyond their adaptive capacity, on the brink of extinction. To supply the entire world with electricity, we would need to cover no more than four percent of the world’s deserts with solar panels. However, heading into massive projects such as solar in the Mojave with haste is much like cutting off your nose to spite your face.


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