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Practical realities of the ambitious Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan




Giant wind turbines are powered by strong winds in front of solar panels on March 27, 2013 in Palm Springs, California.
Giant wind turbines are powered by strong winds in front of solar panels on March 27, 2013 in Palm Springs, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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Looking to balance efforts to boost renewable energy with protecting wildlife, state and federal officials released a plan Tuesday that sets aside vast swaths of California desert for both purposes.

In the works for five years, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) carves out nearly 10 percent of 22.5 million acres of southeastern California for new solar, wind and geothermal energy facilities. The plan also nearly doubles the amount of conservation land in the area, protecting a total of 13.7 million acres. More study will be done on an additional 183,000 acres to determine the appropriate use for them.

The 8,000-page plan aims to open the door for more renewable energy in a state that wants to get 33% of its power from those sources by 2020. At the same time, the plan addresses the concerns of some environmentalists by conserving fragile desert habitat for a number of plants and animals. 

How will California's desert lands be preserved responsibly while utilizing its resources? How will decisions be made about development projects? Who will be the stakeholders considered? Why are some renewable projects not addressed in the DRECP? 

WEIGH IN

How do we weigh the value of desert species and animal migrations against clean energy sources? What about mitigating power consumption in the state?

Guests:

Karen Douglas, Commissioner of the California Energy Commission

James G. Kenna, State Director, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Interior

David Lamfrom, Associate Director, California Desert Program, National Parks Conservation Association