Currently the city of Los Angeles gets about one-fifth of its electricity from renewable resources. By the end of the decade this will increase to one-third. As the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the largest municipal utility in the United States with over 4 million customers, slowly phases out coal and some natural gas, solar parks in the deserts to the east are filling the void.
Utility-scale solar offers the cheapest and most practical form of clean energy for Los Angeles. But the forecast is not all sunny. As these solar parks come into view, so does the range of associated concerns. On the Mojave National Preserve, Oakland-based BrightSource Energy Inc.’s Ivanhoe Solar Complex has made ongoing and exceedingly costly efforts to accommodate the fragile desert tortoise population. Earlier this year, the Genesis Solar Energy Project in Riverside County, Calif., was held up when Native American burial remains were found on multiple occasions during construction, indicating the presence of sacred burial grounds.
Donna Charpied, a 57-year-old farmer who’s lived in Desert Center, Calif. (an aptly named town of 200 an hour east of Palm Springs on the I-10), for 30 years, has a number of issues with her new -- and only -- neighbor. “My heart aches every time I look out my window and see the construction over there,” says Charpied, gazing out from her recently renovated trailer towards the barren Coxcomb Mountains that define the eastern portion of Joshua Tree National Park in Southeastern California. “It’s just unbelievable, the destruction.”