As a gross generalization, I have previously assumed that all environmentalists are in favor of advances in solar and wind energy. Less coal + more renewable = Better Energy Portfolio.....right? Well, not exactly.
In California, a debate of environmental concerns is occuring over the proposed installation of solar and wind generation on approximately 600,000 acres of land in the Mojave desert, located in a state designated renewable zone . Numerous companies have applied to create projects in the area. The current debate is centered around the need for new renewable energy versus the need to preserve pristine lands.
The argument against development is specifically concerned with the great amount of space that wind and especially solar installations would consume. While concerns for negative impacts on wildlife are being voiced, this side of the debate appears to also be a NIMBY situation. The opposition effort is now being spearheaded by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has proposed turning the land into a national monument . This would effectively prevent any new project from being developed.
I find it very interesting how difficult it is to balance all interests in this situation. Focusing solely on environmental concern, there is solid cause for California to be both in favor of and against developing solar and wind generation in the Mojave. Sen. Feinstein has said, "I’m a strong supporter of renewable energy and clean technology, but it is critical that these projects are built on suitable lands ." But what are "suitable lands" for solar/wind generation? Do deserts not qualify?
I am not sure how this situation will play out, but my personal hope is that development will occur in such a way that attempts to mitigate negative environmental impacts. I found this situation to be a stark reminder of how energy issues can be politically complex, to the point of pitting green interests against green interests.