Solar sense

 

As of last June, the Bureau of Land Management had a backlog of 125 proposed solar projects covering nearly 1 million acres. And this month, the Interior Department ordered the BLM to create special offices in Wyoming, California, Nevada, and Arizona to speed permitting for those and other renewable energy projects on public lands.

But why the big rush to pave our deserts with solar panels? One look at Phoenix, Ariz., from the air is all it takes to realize people have already paved a lot of the desert -- literally. So why not do like this company and cover a ton of that paving with panels? As the Arizona Republic reports:

Cox Communications has unveiled a $1 million solar-power system that doubles as shade for employee parking at its Deer Valley Road headquarters.

The six structures cover about 75 parking spaces and will produce more than 200,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a year.. .

Cox took advantage of state, federal and utility rebates from Arizona Public Service Co. to significantly pare the expense of the system.

The incentive from APS could be worth up to $600,000 during 15 years, utility spokesman Steven Gotfried said. . .

Such projects (this one isn't the only such effort, not by a long shot) probably won't solve all our energy needs. But these are the kinds of opportunities (just think of the bajillions of square miles of parking lots in Phoenix alone!) we should exhaust (along with, perhaps, using LESS energy, which can be an economic driver all its own) before we look to undisturbed land to supply power for our blenders and plasma screen TVs.