Solar energy in the Southwest

Oct 21, 2014

Solar energy is becoming a promising industry as our country shifts its reliance from dirty fuels to cleaner, renewable sources of energy. The Mojave Desert is an unbroken and intact landscape that provides diverse habitat for endangered wildlife species, outstanding recreational opportunities, and an abundance of natural resources including solar and wind. With growing demand for renewable energy, there is a corresponding demand and pressure to develop energy zones on sensitive landscapes.


Our conservation partners are working with local communities on ways to responsibly site renewable energy zones and transmission corridors in an effort to bring solar energy to the market more quickly without compromising the natural and recreational values on public lands. Proper siting and planning of energy projects, on previously disturbed lands for example can reduce impacts and speed up the process.


Our flight took us over ecologically and economically important areas in California's southern desert that are proposed for protections under the California Desert Protection Act, and we also flew over proposed energy development sites like the 4,000 Soda Mountain solar project and the Coolwater-Lugo transmission project. We also saw the 392 megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. We hope the aerial perspective gave you a better understanding of this landscape and its valuable resources, both for wildlife and for renewable energy. While these projects represent clean energy and progress toward the country's climate goals, it is important to evaluate the impacts that these large industrial developments could have on sensitive wildlife habitat and scenic desert views.