Friday, September 10, 2010

Solar Done Right

Solar Done Right is a new coalition of public land activists, solar power and electrical engineering experts, biologists (including yours truly) and others who view with concern the rush to convert valuable wildlands, intact ecosystems and agricultural lands to industrial solar energy production. SDR has come together to urge government, utilities, the mainstream environmental movement and the public to abandon this destructive path, and to work toward generating the power we need in the built environment.

How to do solar right.

Solar Done Right holds that there is a proper hierarchy of priority for strategies to end our nation's addiction to fossil fuels. We should start the switch by using the most cost-effective strategies for renewable energy production, which also happen to be the least environmentally destructive. In descending order of priority:

1. Reduce demand.
According to an aggressive program of conservation and energy efficiency using currently available technology could reduce US power consumption by nearly one third.

2. Generate renewable energy at or near the point of use.
Rooftop solar on homes and businesses is cost-competitive with many other commonly-used energy sources and does not incur the energy loss of distribution through transmission lines. Users can benefit through reduced utility bills or sales of power into the grid, or both. Installation time from project conception to completion is measured in weeks rather than years.

3. Generate renewable energy on a larger scale within the built environment. 
Most cities possess large industrial spaces including warehouse roofs, brownfields, large parking lots, airports, and other areas that could be either converted to or augmented with renewable energy production using existing technology. Emerging technologies offer promise for additional methods to incorporate solar energy production into new residential and commercial construction.

SDR contends that a mix of these techniques can meet our electrical energy needs without large remote concentrating solar projects. However, should it turn out that such common-sense methods fail to meet our society's long-term demand for renewable energy, and that after every practicable effort is made to reduce demand and generate renewable power at the point of use some form of remote concentrating solar turns out to be necessary, such projects should be restricted to heavily degraded land that offers no wildlife habitat, agricultural, or similar values, and to technologies that do not deplete scarce water resources. Public and private wildlands and productive agricultural land should never be converted to large-scale renewable energy production.

Visit the SDR website and learn why distributed solar PV should be the centerpiece of US solar energy policy.

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