Photo: Mark Boster, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
In its final months, the Obama administration is racing to complete a far-reaching environmental initiative that could forever alter one of the wildest places left in California, reports Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
A giant energy plan for the Mojave Desert attempts to reconcile two contradictory goals: fast-tracking big solar and wind installations across 10 million acres of public lands to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change, and preserving the region's natural beauty and ecological integrity.
Solar and wind developers say they will need broad expanses of public land to build their big installations. But scientists say those large-scale developments will permanently scar the desert landscape, destroy native plants and wildlife, and, to top it off, may not do for the environment what they were intended to do.
More than seven years in the making, the joint state-federal Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is driven by President Obama's promise to install 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy on federal land and by the state's ambitious new effort to get half of California utilities' electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
The administration's goal is to deliver the equivalent of almost a quarter of California's current daily electrical generating capacity. That's enough to provide power to 3.28 million homes, according to solar industry estimates.