Solar Warfare and Climate Sacrifice Zones
More loose, scattered thoughts on solar
Dustin Mulvaney has a good post up at Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about two major solar battles occurring in California:
Where to site utility-scale solar farms.
Mulvaney describes how various public land grabs to accommodate utility-scale solar have effectively turned parts of the California desert into climate sacrifice zones:
Utility-scale solar projects built on public lands transformed the Ivanpah Valley, Chuckwalla Valley, and western Mojave Desert into industrial zones, reducing habitat for the desert tortoise, flat-tailed horned lizard, fringe-toed lizard, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and Mohave ground squirrel. Other projects damaged cultural resources, including cremation sites and geoglyphs, adding to the long history of failing to obtain consent from Tribes in the region for land use development.
NET ENERGY METERING
I appreciate the Mulvaney piece because my own solar “politics” are all over the map and I’d like to sharpen my thoughts on the subject. I’m generally a proponent of distributed energy resources, distributed generation, decentralization and the like, so conceptually I’m intrigued by rooftop solar. But I’m pretty agnostic on California’s regulatory treatment of Net Energy Metering because every issue in play has layers, seems thorny, or is inextricably linked with California’s climate goals, which are filled with impossible problems and reckless aspirations. The NEM regulatory puzzle requires harmony or synergy with multiple moving parts and I don’t know how California’s regulators, who are not deep-thinking people, will make that happen. Especially while they’re beholden to sacred directives from the legislature.
I’m also fairly agnostic on utility-scale solar, and sometimes I can’t tell whether I find huge solar farms aesthetically interesting or…kind of…profane. They have a quasi-futuristic vibe (or is it time-androgynous, like Star Wars technology?). And though oppressive-seeming, they have a compelling energy that I can’t find the right word for (some variant of techgnosis, maybe?).
Also, as a brutalism “fan” and respecter of various doom aesthetics, perhaps the oppressive qualities of giant solar farms attract rather than repel me. One can imagine an entertaining sci-fi movie where an omnipotent AI goes berserk and decides to drape every surface of the planet with solar panels.
In the end, maybe all of this culminates in orbital death rays.