Monday, December 13, 2010
Robert Glennon (Arizona) and Andrew M. Reeves (JD candidate, Arizona) have posted Solar Energy's Cloudy Future. The abstract:
With governments and environmental groups both clamoring for clean alternatives to fossil fuels, the future of solar energy looks bright. To date, however, solar power produces less than one percent of the U.S.’s electricity needs and, despite unprecedented subsidies since the 2008 passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, very few utility-scale solar projects have broken ground. Solar remains an emerging technology not yet price competitive with fossil fuels, but this efficiency gap alone does not account for the lack of a burgeoning utility-scale solar market - especially when subsidies are considered. Instead, as this article explains, large land and water requirements for utility-scale solar technologies, the arduous permitting process required for proposed sites on public lands, disincentives created by a preference for agriculture, and stringent objections from politicians and environmentalists toward actually siting utility-scale solar projects, better explain the state of solar power in the United States. This article will suggest that solar companies would be wise to focus their efforts to site their projects on private or tribal lands. And, it will suggest that, if solar is ever going to contribute significantly to this country’s energy needs, we must minimize the disincentives and strike a balance between the opposing environmental goals of preserving pristine land and reducing carbon emissions.