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Want to solve climate change? Open more land to solar, industry leader says

By Sammy Roth | December 1, 2022 | Los Angeles Times

solar farm

Ending the climate crisis will almost certainly require putting solar panels and wind turbines on huge amounts of land — some of it valuable wildlife habitat, some of it now used for food production, some of it held sacred by Indigenous tribes.

It’s an uncomfortable reality backed up by robust scientific research — and the starting point for many efforts to identify the least damaging places to build renewable energy infrastructure. I wrote recently about one of those efforts, a Nature Conservancy study with the optimistic conclusion that the American West can generate enough clean power to replace fossil fuels, even if some of its most ecologically important landscapes and best farmlands are placed off limits to solar and wind projects.

The study represents a common way of thinking about renewable energy planning, known as “smart from the start.” The idea is to push development to lower-conflict areas, helping projects get approved faster while also protecting the natural world.

As far as Shannon Eddy is concerned, it’s a good strategy in theory — but in practice, it can leave a lot to be desired.

Eddy runs the Large-scale Solar Assn., a Sacramento trade group that represents and lobbies for the solar industry. Her member companies are tasked with building much of the machinery needed for California to reach 100% clean energy — a task that can be lucrative but also challenging. Almost anywhere you try to construct a solar farm in this state, someone will try to stop you.

Eddy is a fierce advocate for her industry — it’s her job — but she also cares deeply about solving the climate crisis, and doing it equitably. She reached out after reading my piece on the Nature Conservancy study, and told me she wanted to talk.

In her view, state and federal officials are making it far too difficult to build the solar panels and wind turbines needed to phase out coal, oil and gas — tipping the scales toward a future of mass extinctions and dire human health consequences.

(read complete article)


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