Site-Level Solar Development and Ecological Impacts

Local ecological conditions dictate the type of development that is appropriate for an area by providing both landscape constraints and opportunities. In turn, development alters the natural landscape, thereby affecting resident wildlife and plant populations as well as inorganic aspects of the ecosystem, such as soil stability and drainage patterns. The type and severity of the potential impacts that solar development may have on an ecosystem are also influenced by technology type, and therefore certain design variables also play a key role in determining the ecological impacts of a project.

These potential ecological impacts should be considered when making siting decisions. To assess the impacts of utility-scale solar facilities on desert ecology, our research was based on the understanding that the type, intensity, and scope of impact will depend on technology type, geographic location, and the biological resources associated with the site.

This section includes a discussion of site engineering processes and landscape modifications required for development, plus an analysis of the implications these requirements have for the ecological processes and species of the California desert. This section also summarizes some of the mitigation measures that developers are currently proposing to minimize ecological impacts; however, an in-depth analysis of mitigation measures and biological resource Best Management Practices (BMPs) can be found under Recommendations .