Renewable Energy FAQs

Sunset in Arizona's Solana Solar field.
Abengoa Solar
Striking the right balance between renewable energy development and wilderness protection raises many questions.

Find out answers here.

Q: What is renewable energy?

A: Renewable energy comes from naturally occurring sources, like the wind and sun, that are constantly replenished. These power sources can help us reduce global warming pollution that adds to climate change.

Q: What role does renewable energy play on our public lands?

A: Our public lands have a role to play in expanding the U.S. renewable energy supply. Along with state and private lands, public lands harbor substantial wind, solar and geothermal resources. Development is not appropriate everywhere on public lands. Degraded lands close to roads and transmission lines are preferred development locations that will result in fewer environmental impacts.

Q: What role is The Wilderness Society playing in renewable energy development?

A: For more than 75 years we have worked to defend and protect our shared public lands. Protecting our lands requires an evaluation of how much energy we need, where the best places exist for development and how we move renewable energy to the cities that use it. Our campaigns focus on limiting the impacts of energy and transmission development by:

  • Guiding solar projects to low-conflict solar energy zones and away from sensitive lands and wildlife.
  • Reducing pressure on our public lands by supporting innovative ways to reduce our energy demand and the public lands needed for future development.
  • Ensuring a fair financial return for development on appropriate lands through revenue collected from wind and solar projects that can be used for conservation efforts and restoration to offset development.

Q: What can be done to reduce the impacts of renewable energy projects?

A: Federal land managers and project developers should avoid renewable energy development on wildlands and important wildlife habitat and prioritize areas of low value to wildlife and the public. This includes already degraded lands like brownfields, old mining sites, abandoned agricultural lands and areas near existing transmission lines and population centers.

The BLM can minimize impacts on-site by:

  • Requiring project developers to complete field surveys to find and remove sensitive wildlife.
  • Avoiding construction during breeding and migration periods.
  • Building wildlife pathways under roads.

While these efforts are important, the intensive nature of renewable energy development means finding smart locations  is still the most important step in limiting impacts.

Q: Is The Wilderness Society engaged in particular places and projects?

A: Yes. Our teams of policy and energy experts are engaged in developing federal and state guidelines that will protect America’s sensitive lands, including the forests and vast western landscape. We are also engaged in local efforts to identify lands that should be off-limits as well as lands that should be prioritized for renewable energy development.