- Solar energy potential in the California Desert is like oil in the Gulf of Mexico – everyone wants to tap into it.
- Too few decision-makers understand that the California Desert’s vast public landscapes are more than a place for industrial-scale energy development.
- There are better ways to meet our clean energy goals that protect sensitive habitat and ecology, recreation, geology, viewscapes, historic value, and other considerations that are important for Desert communities and healthy landscapes.
As our state and nation continue to move toward greater energy resilience, independence, and sustainability, the demand for public land for renewable energy development in the California Desert continues to grow.
The majority of the investment in new projects is focused on big wind and solar farms that generate lots of power for customers far away. New subsidies, laws, and policies often incentivize this large-scale production, which drives demand for renewable energy production and transmission in the Desert.
To meet statewide mandates under SB 100, California will need to continue the current pace of renewable energy development for the next thirty years.
We have seen first-hand the impacts of large-scale development on California Desert communities and the environment. Lands leased for industrial-scale energy development have to be razed for construction, disrupting wildlife corridors, healthy ecosystems, carbon capturing soils, as well as hunting, rock collecting, and other outdoor activities and viewscapes.
We need responsible renewable energy development. Expanding renewable energy is crucial to achieving climate resilience and restoring the health of our planet. But we can’t achieve that if renewable energy development destroys the environment it is meant to save.
Imagine this: Close your eyes and picture a hundred thousand acres of open space on public lands with ancient creosote rings and a known wildlife corridor. A hundred miles away there’s a fallow farm near a transmission line – the habitat is already damaged, no one is using the land, and it’s enough space to meet your energy production goals. … Which land would YOU lease for your solar project?
Our goal is to encourage renewable energy generation that supports landscape protection and local community well-being.
Promote a balanced approach to renewable energy development that considers other land uses and values, and prioritizes development that is beneficial to consumers, communities, and the environment. We can meet this goal by following a clear set of priorities:
- Rooftop solar energy and other forms of distributed generation development should be the first priority for new subsidies, laws, and policies. This sector has grown faster than predicted and is now viewed as one of the major sources of energy to meet the State’s needs in the coming decades.
- Utility-scale energy development should be sited on the State’s disturbed and degraded lands. Many of these locations are close to existing transmission corridors, roads, and local utilities. Studies of the degraded lands in the California Desert and the Central Valley show that this approach is less expensive, creates fewer environmental impacts, and speeds the development process.
- Support collaborative land use plans like San Bernardino County’s Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE) of the General Plan and the California Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). These plans were developed with years of stakeholder engagement, careful study, and compromise to guide industrial-scale development to least-conflict areas.
- Support Community Choice Aggregation models that work for local communities and reduce environmental harm.