Recharging the California Desert

focusing-renewable-energy-in-the-desert

For People and Nature

There’s a land rush under way in our deserts. State agencies have set aggressive renewable energy goals to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, sparking a building boom in the Mojave.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) initially received applications to build renewable energy facilities on more than one million acres. While many of those applications have since been narrowed down, the footprint of the proposed sites could have a tremendous impact on the desert.

At the Conservancy, we’re convinced that we can develop clean energy, vital to California's future, while protecting the desert’s unique landscapes and ecology. To determine where to site these industrial-scale facilities, we produced the Mojave Ecoregional Assessment, the first report ever compiled on the natural condition of every square mile of the Mojave Desert.

Our assessment proved that there’s enough degraded land available to more than meet our renewable energy goals, and we can avoid untouched, pristine desert.

The assessment pinpoints the areas that are essential to protect and highlights areas that are already degraded or converted to human use, like mining-scarred lands or abandoned agricultural fields that are closer to cities and infrastructure, which would result in building fewer miles of electricity transmission lines to population centers.

This assessment and another of the Sonoran Desert in California are already helping developers, utilities and government agencies make better choices about the siting of renewable energy. It influenced the zoning regulations of BLM over millions of acres in six states—proving that we can meet our renewable energy goals without paving our deserts.

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