04/26/2013 06:31 pm ET Updated Jun 26, 2013

New Solar Farm Shows Clean Energy Can Be Compatible with Conservation Values

Today the Sierra Club welcomes
the Antelope Valley Solar Projects in California, one
of the largest planned solar projects in the U.S., as developer SunPower and
owner MidAmerican Solar marked the start of major construction. The Sierra Club
endorsed the project early on because it was planned and sited in a way that
protected local plants and wildlife.

The project location was chosen in strict accordance with
conservation values, seeking to avoid harming wildlife or building new
infrastructure. The projects are located on previously disturbed private land
that did not have any threatened and endangered species. Although the project
site is in the desert, it was being used to grow alfalfa and other crops that
require significant irrigation, and changing the use to photovolatic solar will
significantly reduce water use.

Additionally, because the projects are located near existing
transmission lines, including a major substation, it was not necessary to build
new high-voltage power lines through undisturbed land.  

The solar farm will go online in 2015 and provide 579
megawatts of real clean energy, enough to power approximately 400,000 homes.
The projects will help California meet its renewable energy and greenhouse gas
emission reductions goals, as well as displacing demand for dirty fossil fuels
like coal or natural gas. These solar panels will also offset more than 775,000 tons of
carbon per year
, the emissions equivalent of three
million cars over the next 20 years.

I'm proud of the Sierra Club volunteers who worked with the developer from
early on to improve the project, and ultimately endorsed it for its attention
to conservation as well as its generation of clean energy, providing valuable
support during key points in the permitting process.

Responsibly sited energy projects, along with rooftop solar and energy
efficiency, are the key to fighting dirty fuels and combating climate
disruption. These new technologies are gaining momentum and helping us move away from fossil fuels. The Sierra Club supports large scale renewable
energy projects developed in line with conservation values.