A new poll by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) shows that 75 percent of Americans favor utility-scale solar on public lands that are not protected as preserves of some kind. This comes after extensive questioning by conservation groups of the true ecological impact that large solar fields would have on the ecosystem they are built upon. The concerns stem from the large amount of landmass that utility-scale arrays cover, and the heavy equipment work that is necessary to set up such an expansive array.
While the poll only asked 500 randomly chosen Americans with no specific demographic or political affiliation, 40 percent said they “strongly support” these projects. This is a positive thing for the solar industry, as well as those that believe solar is a truly clean energy with a major role in the future of American energy consumption. It shows that solar has achieved a market share in feasibility.
Some believe the battles between conservation groups and solar companies, dubbed the “green vs. green battle”, is overblown. “It is a bit of an unfair portrayal. I think, on the whole, the environmental community is unified in supporting clean energy…and of course, doing it in a smart way that protects the environment,” said Sean Garren, a clean energy advocate for Environment America.
Environmental concerns aside, there are enough hurdles for the solar companies to face, such as slow permitting processes, water and land disputes, and the nagging overlap of state and federal agencies. All these factors will slow the growth of utility-scale solar, but one thing’s for sure — when these issues become things of the past, the future will be bright, clean and very green. So far, it seems the industry is simply experiencing growing pains and finding out how best to tread, without squashing the things it seeks to preserve and protect.
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