Siting solar plants in deserts is seen as the best use of these uncultivable wastelands. However, a recent camel death has raised questions whether deserts are the best place to site solar installations.
The unfortunate incident took place in the Lala village of Jaisalmer district, Rajasthan. On Saturday night, a camel wandered into the plant site in search of food. As the plant workers tried to chase it away, the animal injured itself severely with the sharp-edged angles installed to erect solar panels, reported daily newspaper The Times of India.
The injuries were multiple and so severe that the camel bled to death.
The incident also puts the spotlight on finding ways to ensure co-existence of renewable energy plants with the ecosystem to achieve overall sustainability goal.
Last year, a study by University of California researchers measured the impact of solar installation on desert plants at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a concentrating solar power plant in the Mojave Desert of California, USA. The researchers said solar projects can negatively impact desert vegetation, a source of food for animals like camels.
Among the different methods used for site preparation, bulldozing (or blading), where layers of earth are scraped away from the site, is the most damaging to cacti, Mojave yucca and other native plants. Mowing also destroys cacti and Mojave yucca, though shrubs were found to recover from it.
The researchers said while there are ways to help conserve native desert plants at solar facilities, it was best to develop solar energy in marginalized lands like urban areas, places where ecosystems are heavily altered, rather than undeveloped desert.
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