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.

solar on existing concrete
Sinjin Eberle
Sinjin Eberle
Jan 30, 2009 08:08 AM
Sarah - good article (albeit short)...

When I was in college there in the 1980's there was talk about covering all of the freeways in basically 20-ft tall awning, and putting solar panels over the tops, running the length of the highways...just by doing that has to be hundreds of miles of freeway, within the city, it would shade the roads, reducing the urban heat island effect, and people would potentially be able to use their air conditioners at least a little bit less, saving enormous amounts of fuel.

The more these ideas like Cox had get traction, the less hairbrained they seem...

Policy Hurdle
Feb 02, 2009 01:37 PM
One of the biggest potential advantages of solar power development is ironically also one of its biggest hurdles. Solar power has the potential to be an inherently decentralized way lots of different landowners and private parties can offset costs or make a little spare change, much the way wind energy if working to keep ranches as ranches in Texas (as opposed to subdivisions). Of course, it is now way cheaper for an investor in solar to just buy some virgin land in the desertand pave it with solar panels than it is for an investor to enter into all sorts of contracts and rental agreements to instead panel rooftops and parking lots. It seems like a great place for some policy wonks to do some policy wonking in figuring out how to streamline and simplify the process of solar urban infill.