Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a new power line through the desert – and I think it is a great decision. No, my brain hasn’t been eaten by development zombies…but allow me to transport you to those halcyon days of last July, when Eric wrote a Managed World entry on a tradeoff between generating solar power in the desert and running a power line through the relatively pristine Anza-Borrego State Park.
Besides damaging a gorgeous desert wilderness (with fantastic marine fossils! And most of the last population of Peninsular bighorn sheep! Can you tell I’ve got a crush on Anza-Borrego?), the power line through the undeveloped park would have seriously increased the risk of backcountry fires. Several of the October 2007 wildfires were started by power lines. Sure, the desert is fire-adapted, but it’s meant to burn every 20 years, not every 5, and that’s not even getting into the human and economic costs of GIANT FRIGGIN FIRES.
So why am I happy that the power line was approved? Because it won’t run through the park, but along an already-developed corridor – Interstate 8. The power line will not disrupt the wilderness, and since it’s along a busy freeway, hopefully any fires will be noticed and quickly controlled. And the dense population on the coast will have access to all that nice desert renewable energy.
There is a downside, of course. Since all of San Diego County’s electricity lines are alongside Route 8, a fire there could knock out electricity for the entire county. However, since we live in a mild climate – nobody’s going to freeze to death if the power goes out – it’s a risk that I am happy to take.
I think this is one Managed World tradeoff that we can celebrate. Yay solar power! Yay power-line-free wilderness!
Now where’s our cheap, subsidized residential solar panels?