Solar panels threaten the survival of desert plants

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Solar energy also has its dark side. In the Mojave Desert, for example, one of the largest photovoltaic plants in the world it is destroying the native flora. A new study published in the journal ‘Nature Sustainability’ includes the environmental impact of these large facilities built in a hitherto unaltered area. And, in addition, remember that the destruction of natural resources not only affects plants, but also the populations that live on them, as occurs with indigenous communities of the area.

The investigation concludes that the deployment of these large photovoltaic panels in this desert, located in the southwestern United States, threatens the survival of the iconic cactus and of the yucas de Mojave, some species that serve as raw material and food for up to 18 indigenous peoples. Because to accommodate infrastructures, several layers of earth are often ‘scraped’; a practice that destroys many of the plants rooted there and makes it difficult to recover the land. For this reason, experts call to rethink the environmental impact of these facilities.

“It is not just about saving cacti. It is about our need to boost renewable energy, curb the climate crisis, and achieve sustainable development goals, including protection of terrestrial ecosystems“, reflects Rebecca R. Hernández, author of the recently published study and researcher at the University of California, in a press release sent by the entity. The idea, the scientists explain, is to achieve a better balance between renewable energies (key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions), wildlife and biodiversity.

Less harmful alternatives

In this sense, the research proposes adapt some of the practices that are carried out on the ground to mitigate their environmental impact. And, in addition, it is proposed to locate these infrastructures in places where the ecosystem has already been altered, such as in urban areas, and not in virgin placeslike deserts. Among the proposed alternatives, the installation of these parks in landfills, on land affected by salinization (where plants no longer grow) or even on the roofs of large buildings stands out.

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