Renewable Energy

Supporting Smart, Clean Energy Development

Since 2009, the Department of the Interior has been working towards a goal of permitting 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy generation by the end of 2012 on our public lands and offshore waters. To date, 29 applications have been approved, totaling some 6,600 megawatts—enough to power roughly 2 million homes with clean electricity.

Defenders and our partners have visited all of the potential sites and provided guidance and recommendations to federal and state agencies and developers to help minimize any impacts on wildlife. By participating in the early stages of the planning process, we’ve helped ensure the projects are developed “smart from the start” and helped them move closer to their 10,000-megawatt clean energy goal.

Sonoran Solar Project

The Sonoran Solar Project in Arizona is a prime example of smart-from-the-start solar energy development. Early on, Defenders and other conservation groups flagged that the initially proposed power plant would deprive local communities and wildlife of already scarce water supplies in the arid region. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and NextEra, the project developer, redesigned the project with solar panels using 98 percent less water.

Desert Sunlight Project

Thanks in part to Defenders’ input, developer First Solar will undertake several key mitigation measures, such as reducing the project’s footprint in California to avoid blocking a desert tortoise migration corridor and acquiring additional conservation lands to offset the loss of wildlife habitat on the proposed site. In addition, the BLM agreed to make the 14,500 acres to the north and east of the project (sensitive lands that the developer had dropped from the initial plans) off-limits to future solar development.

West Butte Wind Farm

This precedent-setting project in Oregon marks the first time a wind developer has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for an Incidental Take Permit for golden eagles—acknowledging that there’s potential for the project to harm these amazing raptors. Defenders has been studying the project and has submitted comments  identifying strong and effective mitigation measures if the FWS decides to move forward with issuing a permit.

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Polar bear, © Tom Schneider
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