SB448 and Greenlink are an environmental disaster for Nevada’s public lands. The reason is simple: It opens up vast areas of fragile Mojave and Great Basin habitat to industrial development and threatens potentially millions of acres of our Nevada outback.
The bill was introduced in the Nevada Senate late in the 2021 session, by Senator Chris Brooks. Several environmental groups have spoken out against it.
Some 9 million acres of stolen lands of the Western Shoshone, Southern and Northern Paiute people, and home to vast numbers of endangered species and otherwise fragile ecosystems (amidst a drought no less)… are being opened to large-scale industrial solar development. SB448 is pushing the high voltage transmission lines called “Greenlink.” No Greenlink, no destroying our desert.
You can see the areas designated which include the Amargosa Valley and north of Beatty, both in the doorstep of Death Valley National Park. Expect corridors on both sides of Mount Charleston to be covered in solar panels in the near future. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Highway 50, “the loneliest highway” will be covered in projects too.
Projects like the 10,000 acres Sawtooth Solar, and the 4.6 square mile Yellow Pine Solar are already planned and/or being built as we speak. This scale of industrial development on what little land in the continental United States that hasn’t already been paved or plowed, amounts to an ecological catastrophe.
This legislation is part of a larger battle in the extinction crisis. Right now some 200 species go extinct every day. That is 1,000 times greater than the normal rate that has occurred over the last 60 million years.
The cause of these extinctions is habitat destruction and fragmentation, and technology and select conservation isn’t going to stop it, according to experts. Only 20-30 percent of natural habitats are still intact, and only 3% haven’t been detrimentally changed by humans.
In fact, just acknowledging the data on extinction, but denying the implications is a form of denialism that scientists say must be confronted. Destroying millions of acres of habitat for any purpose, including renewable energy, qualifies as denialism and adding to the extinction problem.
First and foremost, habitat protection is vital to stopping climate change. Not only do these desert habitats absorb carbon from the air, they also contain lots of carbon in their soils. Bulldozing the desert amounts to releasing a carbon bomb. Add all the mining, shipping, construction all done with fossil fuels, one wonders if we ever break even during the life of the panels.
There are a variety of measures our society can take to both eliminate our use of fossil fuels and address the extinction crisis that do not involve destroying what little of natural spaces remain on the planet. While many environmental groups are focused on a renewable energy future, we must do everything we can to sustain a renewable planet future.
Biomass and biodiversity are essential elements of our presence on this planet. We should take every measure available first to build renewables on surfaces that are not natural habitats; and reduce wasteful energy use by transforming how we do business, produce food, build housing and transportation. While some tough divisions may lie ahead, the first and best decision we make ought to be a do no harm policy to natural habitats. Policies like the Nevada Greenlink that enable these destructive projects for corporate profits ought to be rejected.