Environmentalists support solar, right?

One of the constant refrains heard among New Mexico’s political leaders and the environmental community is that we need to more fully utilize our state’s abundant sunshine. The reality is that solar power accounts for a minuscule portion of US energy production.

But, even efforts to expand on that tiny amount, presumably by picking the “low-hanging fruit” of solar production, has drawn opposition from the enviros. Most of the major groups including the Sierra Club are suing the federal government to stop large-scale solar developments on certain public lands that have been deemed “environmentally-sensitive.” I’m not sure what lands the environmentalists consider not environmentally-sensitive….

Even more intriguing is a fact sheet on large scale solar projects from the environmental group Western Lands Project. Among the points made in the letter is the following:

No scientific evidence has been presented to support the claim that these projects reduce
greenhouse emissions. Indeed, recent evidence suggests that the opposite may be true. Recent
work at the Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside, suggests that soil
disturbance from large-scale solar development may disrupt Pleistocene-era caliche deposits
that release carbon to the atmosphere when exposed to the elements, thus “negat[ing] the
solar development C gains.”

So, now you tell us? Big solar projects are bad for the environment too? I guess that means we should toss New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard out the window, right? The enviros will undoubtedly say that solar is the way to go, but that we all just need to live off the grid with panels on our roofs. Good luck with that on the three consecutive rainy days we’ve had here in Albuquerque (Believe it or not, it happens).