Friday, March 4, 2011

BLM solar zones wrong from the start

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”
-Albert Einstein

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and partner agencies are proposing to open much of our nation's public land holdings to large scale, industrial solar energy development despite the existence of more cost-effective, faster and less environmentally damaging alternatives. 

Kramer Junction, CA ~150 MW/1,500-acre Solar Power Plant built in the 1980'
According to a coalition of industry groups scoping letter, developers have set their sites on accessing "large swaths of land" in California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado.

Industrial solar power plants, up to 12,000-acres in size, have already been proposed by BP, Chevron, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and other traditional energy investors, across the six states.

Six of the nine Big Solar projects granted fast-track approvals by BLM and partner agencies in California and Nevada are already under lawsuit.  According to stakeholders involved in the litigation, important environmental and cultural resource reviews have been bypassed or rushed, under pressure from industry to meet federal funding deadlines. 

The 11,000 page Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement  (PEIS) is available for public review and comment through Mar 17th (Volume 4 covers Colorado).The draft BLM study proposes three alternatives:

  1. PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE:  lease 21,580,000-acres in six western states/148,000 acres in Colorado.  This is what DOI/BLM/DOE want.
  2. SOLAR ENERGY ZONE (SEZ) ALTERNATIVE: Expedited permitting on 677,000-acres/21,050 acres in SLV. Most environmental groups support this.
  3. “NO ACTION” ALTERNATIVE: NO limit on industry: 98,732,000 acres/7,282,000 in Colorado.  Those who want a case-by-case project evaluation support this.
We urge Federal agencies to take a sustainable renewable energy path.  Siting large-scale industrial solar power plants on high-value public lands hundreds of miles from urban centers will delay progress on renewable energy, drive the cost of solar energy up unnecessarily, further destroy our environment and deprive people and communities across Colorado and the nation of the benefits of locally generated renewable energy.

Many environmental groups maintain that large-scale industrial solar development is necessary to combat climate change.  However, recent research suggests these massive projects may not, in the long run, result in the assumed net CO2 reductions.  Dr. Michael Allen, at the Center for Conservation Biology at UC Riverside, found evidence that disassembling intact desert ecosystems could disrupt ancient carbon sinks and sequestration processes and lead to a net gain in atmospheric carbon.

The release of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), a highly potent greenhouse gas used mostly for electric transmission and distribution, could also increase as new transmission is added to transport solar power hundreds of miles to urban centers.  SF6 has a global warming potential 23,900 times higher than CO2.

Distributed Generation in the built environment and the EPA RE-Powering America Plan offer more responsible and cost-effective alternatives for solar energy development that can be implemented rapidly with the added benefit of creating more jobs.   BLM has failed to consider how the existence of these alternatives effects the purpose or need for large scale development on intact public lands.

SLVRCA, in partnership with Solar Done Right, conclude:

“The PEIS is fundamentally flawed because it targets ecologically valuable, intact public lands first.  The study fails to seriously consider faster, more cost-effective and environment-friendly alternatives including Distributed Generation in the vast urban landscape and the EPA’s “RE-POWERING AMERICA” Plan that identifies over 17,000 suitable sites on already disturbed, degraded and contaminated wastelands.  There is no real need to sacrifice valuable public lands.  The DOI/BLM and DOE have the discretion to, and must, change this destructive course”

Request a copy of our joint summary briefing on BLM's Solar PEIS here.


    NEW Comment deadline: April 16, 2011
    click social media links below....


      completelybaked said...

      Good work, SLVRC! I just posted my comment, and blogged it, too!

      Best of luck!


      my PEIS comment:

      Ceal Smith said...

      Great blog Jim! Thanks for posting, the comment deadline has been extended to Apr 15. We have more time to spread the word and blow this public land grab to smithereens. New scientific evidence that Big Solar could result in net Co2 GAINS - can't save the planet by bulldozing it.

      viagra pharmacy said...

      Great post! Keep forward.

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