Hayley Davis, BAY NATURE
This spring, Alameda County approved of the Aramis Renewable Energy Project, dividing East Bay environmentalists who disagree about whether the undeveloped North Livermore Valley should remain open ranchland and wildlife habitat, or whether part of the flat, sunny valley would be put to better use as a solar farm to help the Bay Area transition away from fossil fuels.
All around California, the development of open space to produce renewable energy has put climate and biodiversity goals at odds. To meet the state’s 2045 goal of 100 percent renewable energy will require between 1.6 and 3.1 million acres of wind and solar, according to projections from The Nature Conservancy, and much of that land, like the North Livermore Valley, has wildlife living on it. The debate has become acrimonious, framed as a choice between stopping the extinction of the desert tortoise or the extreme heat killing people in the Pacific Northwest.
But some scientists and activists say there’s another way: the deployment of distributed solar systems, such as those on rooftops and over parking lots. After federally threatened desert tortoises died as a result of the Yellow Pine Solar Project in the Mojave Desert, Kevin Emmerich, co-founder of Basin and Range Watch, wrote, “Does using renewable energy mean we have to push species toward extinction? No, these solar panels can easily go on rooftops and brownfields.” Already over a million homes in California have rooftop panels, and more residential rooftop solar is installed here each year than any other state by far.