Sunday, January 3, 2010

On Its Back

solar tortoise

A story published yesterday provides a lens on yet another point of value for the generation of energy at or near the site where energy is consumed.

In Solar showdown in Calif. tortoises' desert home our interests in the survival of the threatened remnant population of the desert tortoise is contrasted against the intention of BrightSource Energy to use a portion of the tortoise’s habitat for a multi-megawatt solar thermal project.

Even without knowing the specifics of this project, there is likely to be immediate and ongoing impact to the fragile desert ecology from the energy plant’s construction and maintenance. If you have ever hiked distance in the quiet desert, you no doubt have come across the distinctive parallel grooves left by a rogue vehicle that could have been carved before the last rain, or decades before.

In addition to traffic for the plant, the possible addition of transmission lines, line upgrades and maintenance, and the eventual decommissioning will all impact the landscape for decades or centuries to come. Then, there are toehold issues, and the countervailing inefficiencies introduced by transmission losses.

The poor planning and design that have occurred for decades should not be exacerbated because of the convenient and narrowly profitable proximity of sky-slashing transmission lines. We have already invaded, plowed, scraped, paved, eroded, and sacrificed enough desertscape only so that we can sprawl away from each other. Let us let the tortoise crawl as it will.

There are many economically distressed desert dwellers who would be more than happy to earn a few dollars – and save many more – by welcoming a solar energy system to the roof. Let’s put solar on our own happy backs.

Other than perhaps a few especially delicate humans, no animals were harmed in the production of this article.

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