USGS: Solar’s Desert Impact Needs Study

In the excitement of saving the environment with clean energy, we seem to have forgotten the wildlife that also have a stake in a thriving habitat. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reviewed existing scientific papers and found that there is a lack of study on the effects of large-scale solar energy developments and operations on wildlife.

USGS scientist Jeffrey Lovich and Maryville College (Tenn.) scientist Joshua Ennen did find a large amount of information in environmental compliance documents and other unpublished, non-peer-reviewed literature, but concluded that more peer-reviewed studies are necessary, particularly on desert habitat where much of the large-scale solar development is unfolding. Peer-reviewed studies are reviewed by experts in the same field of study and then published, making them a more reliable source of  in-depth information.

Desert Solar Array

image via Shutterstock

“The dearth of peer-reviewed studies, as shown by the USGS review, can happen whenever society rapidly embarks on major undertakings, such as developing large-scale solar projects,” USGS Director Marcia McNutt said in a statement. “Our goal is to raise the visibility and accessibility of information of impacts of solar energy impacts on wildlife as these important projects move forward.”

The Bureau of Land Management and other agencies responsible for identifying and resolving information gaps related to the impacts of solar siting, development, and operational use can utilize this literature review to prioritize further study and make sure that solar development is safe and beneficial to all species.

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies

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