Oh, naysayers, brace yourselves for this doozy! The World Wildlife Fund has come out with a report that land used for solar panels is an insignificant amount and does not conflict with conservation goals.
The WWF goes as far as saying that, if by 2050 100% of the world’s electricity was generated by solar farms alone, the total land mass used would be less than 1%.
It bears reiterating: less than 1%!
For we clean-tech cheerleaders, it’s hard to imagine arguments against solar photovoltaic projects, but some worry that there’s not enough room to go around for people, plants, animals, and solar farms. Chalk up another win for solar power, though, because in the report that the WWF put out with First Solar, 3Tier, and Fresh Generation, it’s clearly stated that when PV technology is well-planned, communities don’t have to choose between clean energy and nature.
The report looks at six countries — Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey — and the Indian state Madhya Pradesh, to see how diverse geographies, demographics, environments, and political structures – with differing amounts of average levels of sunshine – can deftly handle the parallel ambitions of protecting nature and encouraging clean technology.
Now, here’s the key: We can’t willy-nilly throw solar panels here, there, and everywhere. We’ve got to recognize that there are thousands of acres in already developed land where solar can easily fit. Some examples of existing land prime for solar power are on commercial parking lots; underneath high-voltage transmission lines; at abandoned industrial sites; and on the side of the road. Sure, even in these locales it’s important to think of safety, cost vs benefit, and environmental conservation, making certain that public lands where endangered and sensitive species live (even those places with huge amounts of sunshine) are not considered for solar development.
It’s becoming quite clear that animal lovers and clean tech enthusiasts don’t have to be at odds with each other on solar land usage.
Chelsea is a former newspaper reporter who has spent the past few years teaching English in Poland, Finland and Japan. When she wasn't teaching or writing, Chelsea was traveling Europe and Asia, sampling spicy street food along the way.