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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Solar Power in the Desert: Are the current large-scale solar developments really improving California’s environment?

  • Author(s): Allen, Michael F.
  • McHughen, Alan
  • et al.

California deserts are faced with unprecedented anthropogenic change. Impact factors range from expanding urban centers and military bases, to potential significant habitat loss from solar and thermal power expansions (including ground water exploitation and depletion beyond recovery, land stripping for power generation units, and fragmentation from power and associated transportation corridors), and climate change. Together these factors threaten remaining suitable habitat for endangered and for other endemic desert species. Our goal here is to outline the scope of environmental changes that are underway, and to outline research needs necessary to provide long-term sustainability of federally- and state-listed species and their habitats, ensuring that energy developments are also fully compliant with the letter and intent of state and federal resource protection statutes. We identified several topic areas that are of concern to land managers and project developers in the California deserts. These represent topic areas badly in need of research using state-of-the-art techniques coupled with known expertise, tailored to the desert areas to be impacted by the proposed developments.

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