Monday, July 29, 2013

New Way Forward

Over the years, we've become quite familiar with talk of massive renewable energy projects. We have all this space in the desert. And we want to build up our renewable sector. So full steam ahead?

Over the years, some environmentalists have urged caution, even as other major environmental groups have pushed for more large scale renewable energy projects. Clearly, the "green on green warfare" was quite odd. And it was ultimately counterproductive to both goals of renewable development and open space preservation. So California figured out a new way forward.

These differing views created an uncomfortable "green vs. green" debate, [the Natural Resources Defense Council's Carl] Zichella says. "I think it has been tough. It's been personally painful. We are very good at stopping things, [and] we aren't very good at building things," he says.

In the end, environmental groups negotiated with the Ivanpah project and others one by one to set aside nature preserves in the desert. Learning from this, the state is trying to head off future conflicts with a new plan. The idea is to divvy up the desert into renewable energy zones and zones that are off-limits.

Karen Douglas of the California Energy Commission says it's unusual to see all sides working together.

"There is never any perfect consensus," Douglas says. "But we've got an opportunity with this partnership to put in place what we really think of as the 'greenprint' that will help us conserve our desert resources."

Nevada has begun applying this standard as well, along with other Western states. There has to be a balance of preserving open space and building a renewable future. Especially with climate change already underway, there's not much time left to act.

Unless we invest more in renewable energy development soon, use of coal power will skyrocket. And that’s pretty much the death knell for our climate.

If we can figure out how to balance conservation and development, we can figure out how to make it work overall. Again, we don't have much time left. What are we waiting for? There's a new way forward. We should try it.

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