Making Solar Energy Compromises

Finally, after all our preaching here about compromise between the wants of environmentalists and the needs of solar energy developers, a California group is getting the message.

The California Desert and Renewable Energy Working Group says it wants to skip the courtroom drama (and probably all the sniping and name-calling as well), and simply move forward with a set of recommendations that offer both sides an opportunity to step back from the table with a smile.

According to a representative of the California branch of Defenders of Wildlife, it’s not everything that either group wants, but it’s a good meeting ground from which to negotiate those “must haves” and surrender items that were just bargaining chips in the first place.

And why not, because this is the way the real world works. Joe Blow wants a solar panel array in his (large) yard; Jim Jones says it would be ugly. However, if Joe will build a privacy fence between the yards, cutting off the view, Jim won’t make a stink. See how easy that was?

The compromise document is an attempt to avoid mistakes made in 2010, when the impetus to get solar projects on the books before the federal stimulus deadline expired caused a number of projects to come up against environmentalists’ charges that the EIRs (environmental impact reviews) were inadequate and downright shoddy.

What will one of the most important compromise positions be? Solar energy developers will be encouraged to target degraded public lands (e.g., formerly farmed areas of the desert where cultivation has already destroyed habitat, but the soil is too poor to support more crops).

A meeting at the U.S. Department of the Interior on Feb. 9 and 10 will consider the 41-page document, called the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, or DRECP.

One of the goals: Provide a framework for a more efficient process by which proposed renewable energy projects within the Planning Area may obtain regulatory authorizations, and which results in greater conservation values than a project-by-project, species-by-species review would have.

Sounds like a winner to me. A better article on the subject also appears here.

Photo Credit: Robert Dalton & The CTBTO via Flickr CC

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