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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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SOLAR BELONGS ON PARKING LOTS & ROOFTOPS, NOT FIELDS & FORESTS

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 12, 2022

A solar-covered parking lot at an engine plant in Chuzhou, China. (Photo: Imaginechina via AP Images)

by Richard Conniff/Yale Environment 360

Fly into Orlando, Florida, and you may notice a 22-acre solar power array in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head in a field just west of Disney World. Nearby, Disney also has a 270-acre solar farm of conventional design on former orchard and forest land. Park your car in any of Disney’s 32,000 parking spaces, on the other hand, and you won’t see a canopy overhead generating solar power (or providing shade) — not even if you snag one of the preferred spaces for which visitors pay up to $50 a day.

This is how it typically goes with solar arrays: We build them on open space rather than in developed areas. That is, they overwhelmingly occupy croplands, arid lands, and grasslands, not rooftops or parking lots, according to a global inventory published last month in Nature. In the United States, for instance, roughly 51 percent of utility-scale solar facilities are in deserts; 33 percent are on croplands; and 10 percent are in grasslands and forests. Just 2.5 percent of U.S. solar power comes from urban areas.

The argument for doing it this way can seem compelling: It is cheaper to build on undeveloped land than on rooftops or in parking lots. And building alternative power sources fast and cheap is critical in the race to replace fossil fuels and avert catastrophic climate change. It’s also easier to manage a few big solar farms in an open landscape than a thousand small ones scattered across urban areas.

But that doesn’t necessarily make it smarter. Undeveloped land is a rapidly dwindling resource, and what’s left is under pressure to deliver a host of other services we require from the natural world — growing food, sheltering wildlife, storing and purifying water, preventing erosion, and sequestering carbon, among others. And that pressure is rapidly intensifying. By 2050, in one plausible scenario from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), supplying solar power for all our electrical needs could require ground-based solar on 0.5 percent of the total land area of the United States. To put that number in perspective, NREL senior research Robert Margolis says it’s “less land than we already dedicate to growing corn ethanol for biofuels.” (Continue reading)

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5 Responses to “SOLAR BELONGS ON PARKING LOTS & ROOFTOPS, NOT FIELDS & FORESTS”

  1. I agree. I’m seeing more and more solar panels being rigged up above car parks (in Milan airport and in Spain, for instance). no need to cover a field.

  2. Thank you. In the USA, sadly, they are building huge, heavily fenced solar farms across the travel corridors of critically endangered species like the Florida panther–and still pretending that this is “green” energy. https://www.newswise.com/articles/ecological-tradeoff-utility-scale-solar-energy-impedes-endangered-florida-panthers?sc=cwhr&xy=5043223

  3. 24-6.org said

    Richard,
    Thank you for documenting this.
    We have paved and destroyed living landscapes beyond reason.
    Seems obvious but your insight is unassailable.

  4. DS said

    Agreed, thanks for the article. Here in Arizona, we’re experiencing many things documented here. I’d like to add this. Solar canopied parking lots save energy spent on air conditioning cars, and are likely to be shielding buildings surrounded by pavement from the heat generated by uncovered paved areas. To learn more about Arizona, pay attention to the Arizona Corporation Commission, an Arizona government body not quite duplicated elsewhere. Power companies have been very active in trying to dominate this body with net metering of solar being one of their targets.
    Some current news from Arizona
    https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/energy/2022/01/26/arizona-corporation-commission-votes-down-carbon-free-energy-rules-3-2/9227048002/?csp=chromepush
    And the state legislature is trying to limit who can run for the Corporation Commission. Some say favoring candidates from the utility companies.

    • Good stuff. Thank you, DS. Also check out the very depressing recent photos of the solar-clad landscape in the Taihang mountains in China. I posted one on Twitter on January 31: @RichardConniff

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