Solar Development: Super Bloom or Super Bust for Desert Species?
by Kat Kerlin, UC Davis
Throughout the history of the West, human actions have often rushed the desert — and their actions backfired. In the 1920s, the Colorado River Compact notoriously overallocated water still used today by several Western states because water measurements were taken during a wet period.
More currently, operators of the massive Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert are spending around $45 million on desert tortoise mitigation after initial numbers of the endangered animals were undercounted before its construction.
A study published in the journal Ecological Applications from the University of California, Davis, and UC Santa Cruz warns against another potential desert timing mismatch amid the race against climate change and toward rapid renewable energy development.
“Our study suggests that green energy and species conservation goals may come into conflict in California’s Mojave Desert, which supports nearly 500 rare plant species as well as a rapidly expanding solar industry,” said lead author Karen Tanner, who conducted the work as a Ph.D. student at UC Santa Cruz under a grant led by UC Davis assistant professor Rebecca R. Hernandez.
Read the Ecological Applications paper: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eap.2349