FRIDAY 27 MARCH, 2009 |
Large Solar Farms Threatening The Environment - The Solution
While solar power is generally perceived as clean and green and small
can make good use of unproductive or degraded farming land; some
have raised concerns about the construction of large solar farms on undeveloped
land. There is a solution that's sitting right in front of us, or more
accurately, above us.
California's big solar push is giving birth to some very large projects, such as
several solar plants to be constructed on 41 square kilometres in eastern San Luis Obispo County.
Just one of the projects, the 550-megawatt photovoltaic Topaz Solar Farm
could power about 190,000 homes. While only a small slice of the pristine desert would be
dedicated to solar farms if the projects are approved, environmentalists are concerned that this
would be just the beginning.
Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein is opposing the developments
on the grounds that the lands are not only tourist attractions that generate
revenue but also are home to endangered wildlife, cactus gardens and other plant life.
According to the Senator, the Bureau of Land Management is currently reviewing
130 applications for solar and wind energy development in the California desert,
more than 1 million acres
of public land.
While situations such as this could see pressure on previously solid alliances
between the renewable energy sector and environmental groups, an alternative
often overlooked is the potential of grid
connect solar power
playing a greater role in towns and cities. Our settled
areas are a sea of under-utilised roof space; all potential platforms for solar
power generation. In Australia for example, there is enough
to provide the nation's power needs.
Aside from avoiding encroachment upon environmentally sensitive areas, another
advantage of generating power close to where it will be consumed is minimsing
line loss. As electricity travels through cabling, it loses some of its energy
through heat. The longer the journey from generation source to consumption, the
more energy is lost. This line loss and associated heat generation also plays a
role in power supply problems during summer when blackouts are becoming
Additionally, a distributed power system such as can be achieved through grid
connect solar power installed extensively on residential commercial buildings
has some national
benefits, in that any concentration of power generation facilities
can be an easy target.
Renewable energy and the environment can easily co-exist peacefully; we may just
need to focus more on implementing it where we have already made our mark; and
that will require governments throwing more support behind "power to the
people" by increasing the availability and quality of rebates
in tariff programs
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