Solar Projects Killing Ecosystem in California 

Kelly vanDellen /
Kelly vanDellen /

According to a report from Inside Climate News, extensive solar development initiatives in Southern California have placed significant stress on the availability of local water resources. This strain not only endangers the delicate ecosystems of the desert but also infuriates residents who have experienced negative impacts on their water supply. 

The communities surrounding Desert Center, California, heavily rely on naturally occurring underground water reservoirs, referred to as groundwater aquifers. Unfortunately, the development process associated with large-scale solar projects, which demand substantial amounts of water, has resulted in a decline in groundwater levels. As stated by Inside Climate News, this has led to the depletion of crucial local water wells and even caused the land beneath homes to sink. Furthermore, the delicate desert ecosystems have suffered damage due to these development activities, as highlighted in the report by Inside Climate News. 

Locals in California’s Colorado Desert express their dissatisfaction with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the corporations spearheading the development projects, claiming that they have not been adequately involved in the decision-making process. Despite the BLM’s assurances of the positive impacts of renewable energy development, residents argue that they have not experienced significant benefits from the solar projects. Additionally, they highlight the exacerbation of strain on their groundwater supply, as reported by Inside Climate News. 

According to Inside Climate News, residents feel neglected, as their input and concerns were not considered during the planning stages of the developments. Teresa Pierce, a resident from a nearby community who has played a role in organizing the community’s response to the challenges of resource scarcity and solar development, expressed frustration over the lack of consideration given to the local community’s presence and needs. “No one took into consideration a community lived out here,” she said. 

Inside Climate News reports that developers have relied on the groundwater aquifer due to the absence of other viable water sources in the region. The transportation of water from distant locations to the development sites is deemed economically impractical. Consequently, the development activities have depleted the water reserves available to local communities. A property manager from a trailer park mentioned in the report stated that the community would be severely affected without water if the current scarcity situation continues to worsen. 

It’s more than a water shortage for one resident who owns a property with two palm trees, as he experienced a significant surge in his electricity bill. In just one month, the bill skyrocketed from $15 to $1,800. The electric irrigation pump that sustains the trees had to work much harder to access underground water reserves that have depleted due to extensive use by solar development, as reported by Inside Climate News. The article also mentions that drilling new and deeper water wells can be a costly endeavor, amounting to up to $100,000. 

Former employees of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), cited by Inside Climate News, claim that the agency was aware that the approved solar projects on public lands were potentially depleting the area’s underground water reserves beyond its own standards. However, the BLM proceeded with the projects regardless. 

Inside Climate News highlights another adverse consequence of solar developments. These projects have encroached upon numerous small bodies of water across the desert, which previously served as crucial habitat spaces for the region’s wildlife. 

It’s not the first time Biden’s “green agenda” has been at odds with eco groups, even his own. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at the forefront of its recent proposal to regulate emissions from the power sector. This technology involves the separation of CO2 emissions at fossil fuel-fired power plants and industrial factories, followed by the transportation of the captured gas through pipelines into deep underground storage facilities where it remains indefinitely. 

The EPA’s proposed plan, unveiled in May, aims to achieve a substantial reduction of approximately 617 million metric tons in emissions by 2042. It imposes stringent requirements on electric power providers, compelling them to slash pollution levels by roughly 90% within the next two decades. To meet these ambitious emission reduction targets, power plants must either adopt carbon capture technology or cease operations altogether.  

Members and leaders of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC), responsible for offering policy recommendations, have expressed strong opposition to CCS technology. They have labeled it as a deceptive climate solution and, in a report released in May 2021, listed both CCS and direct air capture projects as initiatives that fail to benefit communities. 

The Biden administration has publicly emphasized its commitment to protecting 30% of America’s lands and waters from further development by 2030. However, despite this agenda, the administration actively promotes solar panels as a vital component of its broader “green” energy initiatives.