Native American Tribes Sue Over Solar Projects

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Dec 31, 2010  |  Updated 10:18 AM PDT
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Native American Tribes Sue Over Solar Projects

Hydrogen is still a more practical way to travel than electric energy if a few kinks can be worked out.

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A land battle with Native Americans could halt California's quest for clean energy.

At issue are six solar plants planned for the California desert. As part of a larger statewide solar project, they would generate around 4,000 megawatts, enough to power 3 million homes. A Native American group called La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle Advisory Committee has filed suit to stop the construction. It's joined by Californians for Renewable Energy and various individuals.

The lawsuits claim that the projects will impact the environment and culture of the sites. According to the suit, the projects may desecrate various burial sites, and could impact various threatened species like the flat-tailed horned lizard.

It's true that the solar panels would be massive and could drastically alter the landscape. Tens of thousands of concave dishes would be deployed across the desert floor, some several stories tall.

The work is desperately needed by neighboring communities, where unemployment nears 30 percent. But work can't proceed on some of the installations until court hearings can determine whether the claims have merit.

But it all may be moot, since the money has yet to materialize for the project. Even if the tribes' claims are dismissed, some of the panels might not even be built.

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