The thing about solar panels is that you don't need to fence off the wildlife. If installed properly, kit foxes can live among the panels. You just cannot bury the cables without thinking. If you armor them (steel or concrete conduits) then there is no reason not to let the critters share space with the panels.
The shade from the panels can create a less harsh environment. As a general rule, new artificial structures increase habitat diversity to the benefit of small critters which in turn feed larger critters. Think of artificial reefs. A field full of solar panels might be an easier place to live, support more wildlife, than the 'natural" landscape.
The land with two revenue streams now makes more money than it did before when it was only a sheep ranch.
So in 50-500 years, all the sheep are talking about paleo vs primal vs other diets !! And then maybe we got Amish sheep too who dont use shade.
/meant to be taken as a joke, not as an insult.
I'm sure there's been studies on this, would be interesting to see them.
Once you consider heat from the sun, and hunting birds looking at small prey in open fields I would not be surprised that the panels provide shelter that the wildlife uses.
Of course it doesn't make sense to conserve land that is having its water cut off.
This is very short sighted.
Restoring topsoil at scale is beyond current technology.
For example, the Sahara desert was fertile before it was over farmed, then abandoned.
Future generations may find better uses for this land than solar farming, but probably not if we ruin it now.
Even before then, ruining the land with reckless solar installations could lead to further desertification in neighboring areas. Again, this is still happening with the Sahara (though not because of solar):
To be clear, we need to build solar as fast as possible, but not at the cost of needlessly wrecking the planet even more.
“300 to 5,500 years ago: Retreating monsoonal rains initiate desiccation in the Egyptian Sahara, prompting humans to move to remaining habitable niches in Sudanese Sahara. The end of the rains and return of desert conditions throughout the Sahara after 5,500 coincides with population return to the Nile Valley and the beginning of pharaonic society.”
The Sahara example isn't applicable because this is land that was made suitable for farming through artificial means.
You also seem to think solar farms ruin the land. I explicitly talk about doing solar in such a way that would qualify for the conservation program that improves land.
That page is terrible - email subscription modal, asking for notification permissions, attempts to load a Flash plugin, and stuffed to the gills with display and banner ads.
California's seemingly ideal growing conditions are only ideal when imported irrigation water is cheap and plentiful. There's whole swathes of the east and midwest that have been abandoned to cheap cash crop farming that could be growing nuts, market vegetables, fruits, etc. without the same water fears.
Consumers would simply have to get used to different varieties -- more cold hardy and fungal resistant varieties of stone fruits and grapes, hazelnuts instead of almonds, etc.
The problem is the crops grown are nearly all used for animal feed, fuel production, and feedstock for industrial food (corn syrup, starch, etc, soybean oil, and others)
It's hard to connect the farmed crops to food you'd like to eat. It's done because federal policies, technologies, economics and tradition and there isn't a great motivation to change.
I'm going to inherit the family farm duties sooner or later and the concept of growing feed for ethanol plants and industrial livestock isn't exactly appealing.
I've thought about what it does to animals and plants. With vast cropland, how could a limited set of funds have the greatest impact? Could we eliminate some gravel roads and replace them with trees and plants and make an appreciable difference? Could we eliminate some roads and make bigger fields (less no-value added time turning equipment around and driving between fields) and add a reserve along the remaining roads? What plants would survive alright if there is overspray from the fields?
If I recall right, the guy who started fortnite has been buying large swaths of land and returning them to nature in West Virginia.
Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata) seems to be a candidate:
Plants as Useful Vectors to Reduce Environmental Toxic Arsenic Contenthttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3913097/
I do have to wonder if we would find ourselves inviting invasive species with such an exercise. But on the other hand, the goal is to "grow'em, burn'em, and carefully dispose of the ash" so maybe that concern is manageable.
So dosing a field will take about as big a sack as you can carry and 250mg will kill you.
Extra fun fact: I got the application rate numbers from an article about controlling weeds on golf courses.
When people have a feeling about herbicides being dangerous… this is the kind of herbicide that caused it.
Extra bonus fun fact: My father's grandmother used to make up a mixture of arsenic trioxide and mercury to paint around the windows to keep bugs out of the house.
(edit: I had thought this was in WA only, but wikipedia says national)
We're really smart apes, we are.
> Alternatives [to lead arsenate] were found to be less effective or more toxic to plants and animals, until 1947 when DDT was found.
Pretty interesting huh!
And the rate of converting agricultural land to other uses is about 1% per decade, at least here in the US, so it's a tiny amount of land.
The stable income for farmers is also a big win, too. Economically, this all makes sense. We just need execution, and education about the tradeoffs for something like this.
Storage, transmission and general adoption are some of the difficulties with solar adoption. I actually does not take a huge amount of space.
Solar is one of the cheapest possible energy sources and getting cheaper every year. Farmers across the midwest are already raking in profits merely for leasing the land for solar projects that others own; if farmers finance and install on their own the economic benefits to them and to the rest of society would be massive, especially compared to business-as-usual natural gas and goal.
Solar is also one of the cleanest in nearly every sense; in terms of amount of solar panels we'd need to scale up production, but recycling is starting to go full boar, and even without any recycling the environmental impacts of a kWh of solar are
Farms typically have fairly hefty connections to the grid because of high peak usage, but clearly there could be some contention that could be solved with greater transmission deployments or that the market could solve by pricing the connection fees.
This source suggests that parabolic solar plants use about one quarter the amount per acre as agriculture:
Unfortunately, I don't see anything right away that discusses water use for photovoltaics. I guess that it's even lower, but I honestly have no idea.
So yes, the transition does reduce water use, but doesn't eliminate it.