Switzer Fellow Nick Jensen and colleague Laura Deehan published an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee on how preserving rooftop solar helps California achieve its land conservation goals. The following is an excerpt from the article.
Preserving rooftop solar helps California achieve its land conservation goals. Here’s how
You can’t think about the Golden State without thinking about sunshine. The two are tied together — people have moved to California for our weather. Those of us who were born here, including the furry, feathered and scaled, love the sun, too.
The sun plays a prominent role in California’s goal of using 100% clean and renewable electricity by 2045, which is why California’s deserts are attracting construction plans for expansive solar farms, along with the thousands of miles of transmission lines needed to bring that electricity to our homes and businesses.
But the state has another goal that will demand attention: conserving 30% of the state’s total land and waters. California is home to more plant species than any other state, and many of our flora and fauna occur nowhere else on Earth. Developing solar energy in these habitats of rare species puts them at risk, along with the state’s conservation goals.
In spite of the apparent conflict, there is a solution. California has the power to meet a large portion of our renewable energy goals without disturbing important habitats and open space.
By putting solar panels on top of homes, schools, churches, department stores and the rest of our already-built environment, we can protect more of California’s landscapes. In fact, analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the Golden State has the potential to meet more than three-quarters of its electricity demand with rooftop solar energy. That should lead to a commonsense effort to double down on rooftop solar with measures that make it possible for Californians of all income levels to enjoy its benefits. But a California Public Utilities Commission proposal could undermine rooftop solar. The proposal is backed by investor-owned utilities regulated by the CPUC that make money off industrial-scale renewable projects, not rooftop projects.