The Santa Monica, California, public radio station KCRW show “Which Way, L.A.?” featured Alliance for Desert Preservation board member Bob Howells in a broadcast yesterday regarding the impact of industrial-scale energy projects on the California desert.
KCRW reporter Evan George toured the High Desert with Howells and Alliance spokesman John Zemanek and witnessed the devastation caused by even relatively small-scale projects. He also spoke to Lucerne Valley desert advocate Bill Lembright. Following is an excerpt from George’s KCRW blog post:
On a rural stretch of Navajo Road outside Apple Valley, a mile or so from the nearest neighborhood of ranch homes, sit two shiny new farms that could be the future of the Southern California desert. Inside an eight-foot chain link fence are row after row of industrial-sized solar panels. Outside the fence, native brush and desert critters show what the land looked like before the installation was built a few months ago.
This solar farm is operated by a company called S Power. Their motto is “Others see a desert. We see opportunity.” And that pretty well captures the dispute that’s been building in the desert communities of the Mojave in recent months.
Federal and state officials, along with private utility companies, are eyeing the Southern California desert as a crucial resource for meeting renewable energy standards and fighting climate change. And it’s pitting California’s progressive energy goals against some desert residents.
“It’s zoned for rural living and large parcels and the people who come here assume they’re going to have that lifestyle — not industrial sized energy projects right next door to them,” says Bob Howells, a writer who now lives in Los Angeles, but is a fifth-generation desert dweller and grew up here. He helped start the Alliance for Desert Preservation.
“The concept of renewable energy appeals to any sensitive person,” says Howells.“But when you see the impact right here on the ground …it’s one of those examples of destroying the environment to purportedly save the environment,” he says.