Solar Power: Saving or ruining our wilderness?

Text by Alyson Sheppard

Last month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed an order to set aside more than 1,000 square miles–670,000 acres–of Bureau of Land Management land to review as "Solar Energy Study Areas," part of the Department of Energy's solar power initiative. Stagnant since 2003, the initiative's goal is to allow construction of 1,000 megawatts of concentrated solar power systems in the southwest by 2010. Maps of the 24 tracks of public land under consideration for large-scale, commercial solar energy farms are now available online.

Salazar has vowed to push 13 “commercial-scale” solar projects into construction phase by the end of next year in six states: Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. In order for land to be considered, it must be near existing roads and transmission lines, have at least three square miles with solar exposure, and have suitable slopes for solar collection. According to the DOE, wilderness, high-conservation-value lands, and lands with conflicting uses were excluded in the selection process.

However, in March, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California pledged to fight the construction of solar plants on the study areas between the Mojave Desert preserve and the Joshua Tree National Park, citing environmental hazard. And the Nevada Wilderness Project has noted one of the Nevada study areas is in a bighorn sheep migration path.

Book your next trip with Peace of Mind
Search Trips

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet