To many, solar energy is seen as the ultimate answer to mankind's energy needs. Clean, safe, renewable – and free – solar energy can be harnessed to produce unlimited amounts of electricity, saving billions of dollars a year and making a significant contribution to a cleaner environment. One of the most effective ways of marshalling the sun's power is to set up a "solar farm," an area where hundreds or thousands of photovoltaic solar panels can be set up to capture the sun's energy, which can then be converted into electricity.
That, at least, is the conventional view. But a new study by the Israel Parks and Nature Authority offers a startlingly contrarian view; setting up mass solar farms in open environments like the Negev could sound the death knell for thousands of animals, if not whole species. According to the study, placing hundreds of solar panels in the desert would be as harmful to the fragile environment as the construction of a new city. In the case of a solar farm, the damage to the environment would come from violating the natural habitat of animals by construction of a fence and the building of electric lines and processing equipment – along with the “stealing” of thousands of dunams of previously empty areas.
Doron Rotem, the author of the report and the Authority's resident expert on open environments, said that a solar farm in the Negev “will endanger wildlife, without question. Wild birds, for example, could get blinded by the panels, and bats could die flying directly into the reflective panels, which may look like water to them.”
The study suggests various ways of reducing the negative environmental impact of the farms, such as building them in areas where infrastructure already exists on the ground.