Eyes on Environment post: cultural and environmental impact of big solar

Figure courtesy of wikipedia.org

Figure courtesy of wikipedia.org

Eighty miles east of Palm Springs, California, eight million solar panels lean toward the sky, their deep blue shine a modern oasis interrupting the brown dust of the Mojave Desert.  Known as Desert Sunlight, the solar power plant is the first of its kind and promises to provide 550 megawatts (MW) of clean energy powering over 150,000 homes in California (a few percent of the state’s total power consumption).  Such large amounts of power from one, 3000-acre solar installation have been unheard of until now, hinting at a revolution in large-scale renewable energy generation that could compete with fossil-fuel-based power plants.

Not so fast, say Native American tribes and environmentalists, who protest these solar plants due to their impact on sacred heritage lands and native species.  The ongoing debate shines an important light on the fact that renewables introduce unique environmental and cultural impacts.  These issues may rest in a blind spot for policymakers trying to reduce fossil fuel emissions at all costs or private companies taking advantage of renewable energy mandates and subsidies to cultivate successful business ventures.


To find out more about the large solar plants and how they’re affecting Native American culture and desert wildlife, read on here at my Eyes on Environmental blog in the Scitable network!


Hinderle, D., Lewison, R., Walde, A., Deutschman, D., & Boarman, W. (2015). The effects of homing and movement behaviors on translocation: Desert tortoises in the western Mojave Desert The Journal of Wildlife Management, 79 (1), 137-147 DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.823

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