Renewable effects on environment garner more than $1 million in grants in California

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Once again, Mojave Desert tortoises are at the center of a discussion of solar energy in California, only this time it’s not shutting out an entire solar segment from the business.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) provided the University of California-Davis (UC) with a $493,089 grant to study different rearing strategies for the reptile species. Scientists at the university will study the viability of indoor vs. outdoor rearing methods, in the hopes of mitigating the effects renewable energy projects have on its breeding grounds and natural habitats.

A species whose dietary needs require vegetation, including annual wildflowers, grasses, and new growth of selected shrubs, cacti and their flowers, the Mojave Desert has long been at the center of debates over concentrated solar power (CSP), a technology environmentalists argued eliminated and degraded the habitat. The species is on both the “threatened” list under the Endangered Species Act and the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s “vulnerable” list for possible extinction.

Sixty years ago, the desert tortoise population averaged at least 200 adults per square mile, but it’s now fallen to between 5-60 adults per square mile.

The CEC also granted $600,000 to UC-Irvine to perform test designed to figure out the environmental effects and resource use involved in deploying emerging grid-scale energy storage technologies, with a specific focus on the different flow-battery chemistries. Battery storage is necessary for deploying high portions of solar PV on the gird, and research into its long-term effects is important for determining which technology is best for renewable-energy deployment.