|Defining 'Smart from the Start' Renewable Energy projects|
An open process, royalties for conservation
“Smart from the start” is an approach to renewable energy development that results in a project that is sited on already disturbed lands, near roads and existing transmission lines, and away from sensitive wildlife habitat or special landscapes.
Smart from the start suggests that there won’t be a need to relocate desert tortoises AFTER a project is built or that the project won’t require the construction of an expensive, ratepayer-funded transmission line. There are other connotations:
Why is a conservation group involved in renewable energy projects?
We understand that climate change is affecting our planet and particularly some of the landscapes in the arid West that we hold dear. Global warming is highlighting the need for us to conserve interconnected habitats so wildlife has the opportunity to move about, eat and breed.
One of the ways to combat global warming is with renewable energy projects that wean us from fossil fuels. And one of the best places for renewable energy projects – including solar, wind and geothermal – is the arid West. So we can’t, with good conscience, oppose utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands in the West when those projects will eventually help us save an exponentially larger landscape.
But we can make sure the right projects are built in the right place. That means building projects that are “smart from the start.” It also means supporting legislation that charges renewable energy developers royalties that are earmarked for conservation. This way, we get the renewable energy we need to battle man-caused global warming and royalty payments to help out the wildlife and wildlands that are affected by climate change.
What do we hope to achieve?
Since we began publicly championing a “smart from the start” approach to renewable energy development in early 2009, we have learned that transparency and openness help developers save money and time, and help conservation groups and permitting agencies quickly and accurately review plans for renewable energy projects on public lands. The “smart from the start” process is not a cookie-cutter approach; every project is different and potential challenges faced varies from location to location.
But the “smart from the start” process allows us to consider the relationships and proximity between projects and their cumulative impacts on the land. It becomes a pathway to encourage the BLM to take a holistic, landscape level approach to planning for large-scale developments. This is something conservation groups across the West, large and small, agree that the federal government needs to address.
The New York Times: Interior Names Solar ‘Hot Spots’ Out West
Sustainablebusiness.com: DOI Issues Well-Received Solar Plan for US WestOur own weethump blog: Heck introduces bill for assessing royalty payments upon renewable energy developments on public lands