Solar Project Could Doom Tortoises

By Matt Baume
|  Thursday, Apr 28, 2011  |  Updated 5:21 PM PDT
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Solar Project Could Doom Tortoises

Karen Klein

It's a Sophie's Choice for environmentalists: save the threatened desert tortoise, or erect a massive solar farm? It's an agonizing decision.

The construction on the solar project could kill 700 of a 3,000-tortoise colony at the southern end of the California-Nevada line. The project's managers at BrightSource Energy had previously estimated that only of the animals would be disturbed, according to the CC Times.

Now, the thorny issue will likely be solved by determining which has a worse environmental impact: killing the turtles, or allowing dirty-power coal plants to remain operational. Since coal is extremely destructive to the environment, the solar project may ultimately win out despite its toll on the tortoises.

Of course, there's another option: move the construction project. But the expense of relocation may render that impossible.

The problem highlights the disadvantages to clean energy. Even wind power exacts a toll: the spinning blades are responsible for countless bird deaths.

Meanwhile, a study along the Russian River identifies around $40 million worth of improvements that should be made to protect threatened fish like coho and steelhead. After decades of destroying the environment, the expense of correcting past generations' mistakes continues to rise.

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