As the Obama administration continues to fulfill its renewable energy promises with a $6bn solar plant, where will wildlife go?
Construction of the world's largest concentrated solar plant was approved by the Obama administration to be created in the Mojave Desert of California. The plant will be developed near Blythe, California, and is the sixth solar venture authorized on federal lands within the last month.
"The Blythe Solar Power Project is a major milestone in our nation's renewable energy economy and shows that the United States intends to compete and lead in the technologies of the future," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stated in announcing the approval.
The $6 billion plant will double the country's solar output and is expected to power a minimum of 300,000 homes. Construction will commence by the end of this year, and production is due to begin in 2013. German-based company, Solar Millennium, believes the plant will produced 1,066 construction jobs, plus 295 permanent jobs.
Environmentalists oppose the project due to concerns over wildlife in that area. To mitigate the project's environmental impacts Solar Millennium will be responsible for funding over 8,000 acres of habitat for wildlife in the area to migrate. Desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep and Mojave fringe-toed lizard will need an alternate location to live.
A seventh project on federal lands of California is also expected to be approved in the near future. Once at full capacity, all seven projects have the potential to generate over 3,000 megawatts of power and supply electricity for up to 2 million homes. Additionally, over 2,000 jobs will be created during the construction of these projects, as well as several hundred permanent jobs.
"We're finally going to see solar energy produced on public lands in the United States — and this is something the public wants," said Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington-based trade group.