Renewable energy critics are quick to point out the environmental impacts of large-scale renewable energy projects, like the birds killed by wind turbines or the wildlife displaced by solar arrays.
Despite these concerns, numerous forecasts by energy experts ranging from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)  to ExxonMobil  all conclude that the next several decades will see massive growth in renewable energy. In fact, solar installation in the U.S. could double in 2010  according to Roger Efird, the chairman of the Solar Energy Industry Association.
This growth is not surprising given the aggressive renewable energy mandates set by three-quarters of US states  and increasing pressure to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.
In the U.S., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is addressing the environmental impacts of utility-scale solar installations at its newest solar array  near Boulder, CO. The array sits on nearly 8 acres of mostly native shortgrass prairie, and like most PV array fields, the vegetation and wildlife in this type of ecosystem recovers more slowly from disturbances. NREL biologists are studying the new array  to better understand how these areas are impacted and identify best practices for managing habitat and wildlife. The goal is to learn how to make other NREL projects and solar installations more sustainable by protecting native plants and animals and their ecosystems.
In California, solar power developer BrightSource Energy announced  last week plans to submit a new design to regulators that would minimize impacts to the desert tortoise. The new plans scale back the project and avoid the most sensitive habitat altogether.
President Obama has made it a priority to promote environmentally responsible clean energy projects, including those on public lands. His proposed 2011 budget increases the budget for the Department of Interior’s New Energy Frontier Initiative by $14.2 million , much of which would go toward increased capacity to conduct impact assessments of renewable energy development projects.