Friday, June 20, 2008 | 2:07 a.m.
Proposals to build renewable solar energy operations across Nevada and other parts of the Southwest are being stalled and questioned for an unlikely reason: environmental concerns.
As the Las Vegas Sun reported Wednesday, the Bureau of Land Management has put a moratorium on applications to place arrays of solar panels on federal land, pending the outcome of a 22-month study to assess the environmental effects of such projects.
A renewable energy representative of one of the power companies that wants to build a solar array in rural Nevada told Sun reporter Phoebe Sweet such a delay will “slow the momentum of a growing economy of solar business in the state of Nevada.”
In Southern California a proposal to build a massive solar-wind-geothermal power generating operation in open desert is under fire from environmentalists, residents and the director of California’s state parks because San Diego Gas & Electric Co. plans to run a 160-foot-tall transmission line through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California’s largest state park.
Opponents cite a joint state-federal environmental review that says the line’s continuous buzzing would ruin the solitude of campgrounds and place the endangered bighorn sheep and other species at risk, the Los Angeles Times reported. The environmental review lists five corridor alternatives, but power company officials insist on using the park corridor.
The idea that those who work to protect the environment would oppose renewable energy projects may seem perplexing.
But all building projects — even those with environmentally positive goals — should be studied for potentially adverse effects. Government and power company officials should be making sure that in building renewable energy plants they aren’t sacrificing sensitive habitat and watersheds in Nevada or any other state. These are relatively new technologies whose effects are not wholly known.
The West needs renewable power, but it needs its ecological systems and diversity too. We can have all three, with diligence on the part of the BLM to finish these studies in a timely manner and with cooperation between power companies and the agency.