Today the Sierra Club welcomes the Antelope Valley Solar Projects in California, one of the largest planned solar projects in the U.S., as developer SunPower and owner MidAmerican Solar marked the start of major construction. The Sierra Club endorsed the project early on because it was planned and sited in a way that protected local plants and wildlife.

The project location was chosen in strict accordance with conservation values, seeking to avoid harming wildlife or building new infrastructure. The projects are located on previously disturbed private land that did not have any threatened and endangered species. Although the project site is in the desert, it was being used to grow alfalfa and other crops that require significant irrigation, and changing the use to photovolatic solar will significantly reduce water use.

Additionally, because the projects are located near existing transmission lines, including a major substation, it was not necessary to build new high-voltage power lines through undisturbed land.

The solar farm will go online in 2015 and provide 579 megawatts of real clean energy, enough to power approximately 400,000 homes. The projects will help California meet its renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions goals, as well as displacing demand for dirty fossil fuels like coal or natural gas. These solar panels will also offset more than 775,000 tons of carbon per year, the emissions equivalent of three million cars over the next 20 years.

I’m proud of the Sierra Club volunteers who worked with the developer from early on to improve the project, and ultimately endorsed it for its attention to conservation as well as its generation of clean energy, providing valuable support during key points in the permitting process.

Responsibly sited energy projects, along with rooftop solar and energy efficiency, are the key to fighting dirty fuels and combating climate disruption. These new technologies are gaining momentum and helping us move away from fossil fuels. The Sierra Club supports large scale renewable energy projects developed in line with conservation values.