Solar in the US: Environmental Cost Positive
While many businesses are turning to solar for their energy production because it's a cost-effective alternative to traditional energy, it's good not to forget the many environmental benefits of choosing solar. The New York Times took a look at the benefits of solar on the American environment. Here's the excerpt:
America’s vast land resources are a solar cornucopia that we would be foolish to ignore. Converting a minute fraction of our non-urban lands to solar power generation will move us substantially toward a post-carbon future.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, solar panels on building rooftops can provide about a fifth of our total power needs, assuming the owners of all buildings well-suited to solar decide to invest in this technology. Further extending the sun’s reach will require the smart and selective use of our land resources.
By building utility-scale solar plants on farmland, we can take advantage of lands already altered from their natural state. Water-hungry cotton was harvested this year on 160,000 acres in drought-stricken California. Across the country, 88 million acres were planted in corn, heavily reliant on fuel, fertilizer and pesticide inputs. Would converting a small portion of these fields to solar development harm or help the environment?
Farmers in states as diverse as Minnesota, Maryland andNorth Carolina are opting for solar on some of their fields. Leasing out land for solar development is a good business proposition where soils are exhausted or crops yield too little value.
With appropriate care, solar can be built on open lands with minimal wildlife disruption. The California Valley Solar Ranch, east of San Luis Obispo, now draws enough power for 100,000 households from 1,400 acres of solar panels. Prior to construction, a team of biologists identified and relocated sensitive species such as the San Joaquin kit fox and the giant kangaroo rat. Afterwards these animals were reintroduced to the project area, and migratory corridors were created between solar fields to allow antelope and elk to pass unimpeded. As an added measure negotiated with environmental groups, 12,000 acres of nearby land were set aside for conservation in perpetuity. How many farmers have gone to such lengths to protect biodiversity?