National Clean Energy Summit Stresses Need for Land Conservation with Energy Development

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Last week's National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada, highlighted the importance of putting land conservation and habitat integrity on balance with renewable energy conservation

Last week, the Wilderness Society took part in the sixth annual National Clean Energy Summit. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was the keynote speaker at this year’s summit. Her speech was anticipated by many, as the Interior Department will play an important role in our clean energy future since President Obama vowed to double renewable energy production on public lands during his second term.

In her remarks, Secretary Jewell called for an approach to renewable energy development that considers conservation, one that identifies where and where not to build projects and adequately offsets any negative impacts on land and wildlife. 

Our nation’s public lands contain pristine wilderness, bountiful fish and wildlife habitat and countless recreation opportunities, so it is critically important that we find the right places to develop wind and solar. One step the Interior Department has taken to guide utility scale development to low conflict areas is by establishing Solar Energy Zones – in fact, at the summit Jewell announced a new approved zone in California’s Imperial Valley, bringing the total to 19 identified zones across the west.

The Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone was just a stone’s throw away from the summit location in sunny Las Vegas. As the picture below shows, this landscape has already been impacted by infrastructure development and next to multiple roads, making it a suitable option for a solar project in the future. Identifying areas like this to build on in addition to minimizing impacts during the construction phase are keys to preserving land while achieving our climate goals.

Picture of the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone taken from a nearby road – the landscape had already been degraded by development, making it a more ideal place for solar projects.

Secretary Jewell also stressed the importance of providing meaningful mitigation measures when development occurs. Making sure unavoidable impacts are offset with conservation of land and habitat protects the integrity of our natural and cultural resources.

Clean energy projects will continue to be sighted and built on public lands into the future, so making sure it is done in a responsible way is critical in the present. When done right, renewable energy can help achieve our climate and conservation goals. We owe it to future generations to consider conservation during the development and planning phase to adequately preserve land, water and wildlife.

You can view the web video of the Clean Energy Summit here.