Above: PV panels generate power while shading an existing parking lot in Las Vegas.
Solar Done Right is a coalition of public land activists, solar power and electrical engineering experts, biologists and others who view with concern the rush to develop our few remaining wildlands for industrial solar energy.
We have 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:
- Reduce demand. According to some estimates, an aggressive program of conservation and energy efficiency using currently available technology could reduce US power consumption by nearly one third.
- 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.
- 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.
We contend that a mixture of these techniques can meet our electrical energy needs without the need for 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.
Janine is founder and director of the Western Lands Project in Seattle, Washington. Western Lands monitors federal land transactions and public land policy across the West, and works to keep public land public.
Terry is Conservation and Imperial County Projects Coordinator for the Desert Protective Council, a San Diego-based organization working to protect the desert since 1954.
Director, San Luis Valley Renewable Communities Alliance & TIERRA Consultants. Ceal has worked as an ecologist, biologist, policy analyst, educator and consultant from the Klamath River Basin to the Amazon. Ceal writes on subjects from conservation biology, energy and agriculture to community organizing. She now works on energy and community resiliency issues in Colorado's San Luis Valley.
Laura Cunningham was a tortoise biologist in the Mojave Desert on construction projects before becoming an activist working to conserve desert ecosystems. She co-founded the Beatty, NV-based group Basin and Range Watch to track ill-sited large-scale renewable energy projects, and also works as an artist and writer on ecological subjects.
Kevin spent 17 years working as a Park Ranger and biological resources technician, most of the time spent in Death Valley National Park. He now owns land in the Mojave Desert and works towards preserving open space and biodiversity.
Sheila is a citizen activist. For the last several years she has been researching the economic, political and legal biases that incentivize industrial-scale energy development while artificially impeding the growth of environmentally sound distributed generation.
Bill is the principal of Powers Engineering, an air quality consulting engineering firm established in San Diego in 1994. He is a much-sought-after analyst of issues relating to electrical transmission, and power plant emissions and permitting.
Solar Done Right takes its name from work first done by Lawrence Hogue, formerly of the Desert Protective Council, on that organization's website. We thank him for the inspiration.