New survey finds most in California desert support solar

New survey finds most in California desert support solarAn overwhelming majority of Californians in desert country support large-scale solar development, according to a new survey conducted by Probolsky Research and Vote Solar on behalf of BirghtSource Energy. The survey of more than 1,000 people had a 95 percent degree of confidence and was conducted throughout Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Riverside, San Bernardino counties in California, where many utility-scale solar projects are underway or planned.

The survey determined that nearly four out of five (almost 80 percent) of people throughout the regions strongly supported development of solar in their communities.

“Given the survey size, which was really significant, I think we were surprised by the amount of support we saw in these desert communities,” said Jim Baak director of utility-scale policy at Vote Solar.

The survey also found that the majority of people surveyed were concerned with climate change. It also found that two-thirds of respondents think renewable energy is important to California’s future and that the state and federal government should help provide incentives for renewable energy projects.

The survey was released after an LA Times article critical of the giant projects, like BrightSource’s 392-megawatt Ivanpah project and others, and their impact on land and wildlife was recently published.

“The desert is a special environment, and there’s a lot of work to preserve species,” Baak said. The desert has many scenic and cultural uses and some endangered species. “It’s a difficult balance to decide how to develop [renewable energy projects] while also being sensitive to species and their habitat.”

The survey asked some questions about the impact of development, but did not go into more detail on development’s impact on specific species, according to Baak.

People responded that they were concerned of the impact on habitat to wildlife but that reducing the carbon footprint was a bigger concern for them.

“There’s pretty good recognition about global climate change as a major concern for these folks,” he said.

The survey didn’t distinguish which technologies people supported the most.

“We tried gathering information about large-scale solar development in general,” Baak said.

The survey gives credence to Vote Solar’s mission to support development of more solar and renewable energy, both large and small.

“I think it gives us more information on where the public stands on the issues and reaffirms our existing goals,” Baak said. “We promote both rooftop and large-scale solar. We know just doing rooftop alone won’t get us to where we want to reduce climate change.”

The organization wants to see as much distributed generation as possible. But also understands that large-scale projects are important to reducing use of fossil fuels-based energy.