Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Southwest solar meets the New York Times

Turning Glare into Watts.

If large numbers of plants are built, they will eventually pose some problems, even in the desert. They could take up immense amounts of land and damage the environment. Already, building a plant in California requires hiring a licensed tortoise wrangler to capture and relocate endangered desert tortoises.

Often in desert construction the entire lot is bulldozed for convenience and it doesn't have to be. This applies to one acre lots (from personal experience) to larger plots as mentioned. The compressed surface often only allows the invasive non-native Russian thistle (aka tumbleweed) to grow. I've never seen the dominant native vegetation in the Mojave, the creosote bush, grow back in disturbed plots.


Jennifer said...

I have to wonder how one gets a tortoise wrangling license.

Dean W. Armstrong said...

As a kid we didn't need licenses--one day a tortoise came rambling down the street. We kept it for a week, trying to feed it vegetables of various types (which it mostly refused), confusing the dog beyond compare, until we drove it up to a wildlife preserve, where it promptly ate a small plant and slowly disappeared in the brush.

Benjamin said...

Is it possible to build a solar thermal power plant without greatly disturbing the land underneath? I'm of the opinion that, particularly in the Southwest, solar power is "low-hanging fruit" that we can exploit relatively easily. But if it also has environmental issues, well, that's no good.

Dean W. Armstrong said...

I don't know--I'm not a construction guy. But I honestly think the entire site doesn't need to be pounded flat--you need stable locations for the mirror mounts and of course the power plant, but do you need to pound in between the mirror mounts? What about the wide aisles? Any chance for a more native feel for that? For instance, there is an access road for all the electrical power lines, but for the most part the roads are minimal and blend well with the desert.