Recent utility-scale solar developments, a result of demand for more domestic and cleaner energy, are being constructed at unprecedented levels (DOE 2012).
IN THE WESTERN UNITED STATES WE ARE SITING SOLAR IN PREVIOUSLY UNDEVELOPED HABITATS FAR FROM THE MAJOR CITIES THESE FACILITIES FEED.
Environmental impacts from utility-scale development and associated infrastructure:
- elevated dust levels
- electromagnetic field generation
- amplified local temperatures
- increased water consumption
- habitat destruction through extensive bulldozing and grading
- creation of barriers to species movement (Lovich & Ennen 2011)
THIS IS AN ISSUE OF PLACEMENT IN ENVIRONMENTS THAT WERE NOT PREVIOUSLY DEVELOPED. The placement of utility-scale facilities, along with their peripheral infrastructure (i.e. roads, transmission lines), in previously undisturbed environments results in permanent habitat loss through extensive habitat modification (Abella 2010, Lovich & Bainbridge 1999). Associated infrastructure can lead to further degradation in the surrounding areas as remaining habitat becomes degraded through increased use.
HABITAT LOSS AND FRAGMENTATION CAN INCREASE EXTINCTION RISKS. In many cases habitat loss and barriers to species movement leads large connected tracts of habitat become separated on the landscape, which can increase extinction risk (Ewers & Didham 2006, Haddad et al. 2015, Hand et al. 2014).
IVANPAH VALLEY IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF UTILITY-SCALE SOLAR SITING AWAY FROM URBAN AREAS. The Ivanpah Valley is located along the California/Nevada border, roughly 75 km southwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. Large-scale solar development of the Ivanpah Valley began in 2010 with Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System (ISEGS), which occupies 14.2 km2 (BrightSource Energy 2014). First Solar-Silver State South construction began in 2010 and First Solar-Stateline broke ground in 2014 on an additional 14.2 and 8.7 km2, respectively (BLM 2010, 2011, 2013). Construction on all three installations occurred in previously undeveloped environments.