The world is such a strange place. Faced with the burgeoning demand sunny land in the southwest United States, the Bureau of Land Management (the US agency that controls government-owned lands that aren't forests) has decided to put a two-year moratorium new solar power plants. During this period, they're going to be doing studies on the impact that solar power plants have on desert habitat and wildlife.
Don't get me wrong, I'm in favor of environmental assessments, and solar power projects do have significant impacts on sensitive lands. Some of the areas for proposed solar power, I'm sure, are going to be inappropriate for that use. Roads have to be built, concrete is laid down, and electrical transmission lines have to be built.
But solar power projects have significantly less environmental impact than, say, oil and gas exploration or cattle grazing. Those happen to be the two most common uses of BLM lands. Yet, somehow they haven't called for a moratorium on new oil and gas development. How odd...
What we're seeing here is yet another example (like the 600 year waiting list for wind power permits) of a government that is extremely slow to adapt to new circumstances. The BLM has no idea how to properly conduct an environmental assessment for a solar project. So, instead of figuring it out as they permit them, they're simply stopping all development.
This simply can't be allowed. The permits that the BLM is working through could power more than 10% of the households in the United States. This is the first opportunity we've ever had to make renewable energy a significant part of the energy mix in America.
Solar stocks are down significantly on this news. The BLM's lands are crucial to making solar power mainstream. This break could be deadly to many young solar companies. If anyone in our government is paying attention, they need to increase the BLM's funding so they can deal with this influx without having to take a two year break. And it has to be done now.