Desert Debate – Environmentalists Clash with Environmentalists

No, the title is not a misprint.  Its not politicians or oil tycoons that are clashing with environmentalists here – its the environmentalists themselves.  

The benefits of solar power as a clean form of energy are undisputed.  But even solar energy, when applied on a broad scale, has its contingencies. In this case, the subject of contention is desert land.

Broad-scale solar power generation does have one requirement which can have an impact on the environment itself – it requires space.  And ideally, lots of space.  The more space a solar power plant occupies, the more solar panels can be laid out beneath the sun, and the more power can be generated.  An ideal habitat for such an operation is a desert landscape.  Plenty of sun, and there is little in the way of clouds, snow, or other atmospheric obstructions, to inhibit the collection of solar energy.

However, while the desert may be an ideal home for a large collection of solar panels, is an ideal habitat for other creatures as well.  And some environmentalists are concerned about the impact that large solar power plants would have on the desert ecology and creatures that live there.

Desert residence are also concerned about the impact on the scenery.

Some argue that it would be much simpler if we all just installed solar panels on our rooftops.  Others make the point that a centralized and well-managed source of reliable power is a key element of any civilization.

My views on the matter?  A recent blog post on GetSolar.com said it better than I could have:

“… if clean energy advocates and environmentalists really can’t find common cause and work together, what hope is there for the rest of us? 

We all want a clean, secure energy future and a world with hidden wonders and great natural beauty. We’re still taking the very first steps to figuring out how this can be achieved, and I hope the tenor of the discourse improves soon. We’re not rivals, after all. We’re all on the same team–whether we like it or not.”

The Mojave Desert, in California, is a recent site of dispute of this nature. According to the New York Times, one individual complained that “Deserts don’t need to be sacrificed so that people in L.A. can keep heating their swimming pools.”

My take on this? What’s next. Should people heat their swimming pools with energy created by fossil fuel, should they heat their swimming pools with energy generated in desert-sweeping solar power plants, or should laws simply be passed against the use of electricity for such frivolities as swimming pools?

The final solution will be that solution which does the most good with the least harm. As in all things of life, sometimes a bit of harm has to be done in order for something constructive and beneficial to be accomplished. The trick is weighing the advantages and disadvantages of all options and deciding on which solution will be of the greatest benefit and the least harm.

One-sided views have always led in one direction – debate. In other words, nowhere.

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