These black and white photographs are beautiful to look at. The problem is that they showcase a solar energy plant that has been caught up in a green energy debate.
Taken from a helicopter recently by photographer Jamey Stillings, the photographs showcase the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System located in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.
Stillings had been denied the opportunity to take the photographs from the ground, but he says the aerial perspective better shows the sheer size of the plant anyway.
The plant will eventually be the largest solar thermal power plant in the world, and will make enough electricity to run 140 000 homes.
But as Wired points out, the system is located right in the middle of the threatened desert tortoise habitat.
The companies that built the system have already had to allocate $56 million to care for and relocate the tortoises, but, as is the case with these catch-22 situations, at least one major environmental group has already argued the plant should have never been built on its current location in the first place.
Kristin Hunter, a spokesperson for BrightSource Energy, which is one of three owners of the project along with Google and NRG Energy, says the project did take into consideration the environmental impact of the solar plant and purposely placed it in an area that already saw some human traffic. She says the area where Ivanpah sits is close to a major highway and a golf course, among other things, and is trafficked by people on all-terrain vehicles.
The argument is that there were plenty of other locations where the plant could have been built, for example, old dried-up agricultural lands or mining areas.
Thus far, 144 tortoises (77 adults, 67 juveniles) have been found on site, and all 77 adults have been relocated.
The experience has somewhat changed the photographer’s standpoint on renewable energy – he used to be all for it. But he says that after this experience, which he will continue to photograph through its scheduled 2013 completion, that finding a way forward is always going to be a complicated balance.
You can have a look at the various other projects Stillings has completed, here.
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