Mitigation measures to avoid or reduce socioeconomic impacts of solar energy development.
The economic effects of a solar energy project can be positive effects of increases in employment and local revenue whereby few, if any, mitigation measures may be necessary. However, with large solar projects there are situations where existing infrastructure and social services are inadequate to meet the needs of large workforces that are not local to the area. This is especially true on tribal lands where there can be both cultural differences and disparities among incomes, education, and access to basic needs, such as running water and electricity. The following mitigation measures may be applicable to avoid or reduce these impacts depending upon site- and project-specific conditions.
Energy companies could work with tribal, state, and local agencies/governments to develop community monitoring programs that will be sufficient to identify and evaluate socioeconomic impacts resulting from solar energy development. Monitoring programs should collect data reflecting economic, fiscal, and social impacts of the development at both the tribal, state, and local level. Parameters to be evaluated could include impacts on local labor and housing markets, local consumer product prices and availability, local public services (e.g., police, fire, and public health), and educational services. Programs could also monitor indicators of social disruption (e.g., crime, alcoholism, drug use, and mental health) and the effectiveness of community welfare programs in addressing these problems.
Energy companies could work with tribal, state, and local agencies to develop community outreach programs that would help communities adjust to changes triggered by solar energy development. Such programs could include any of the following activities:
Establishing vocational training programs for the local workforce to promote development of skills required by the solar energy industry;
Developing instructional materials for use in area schools to educate the local communities on the solar energy industry;
Supporting community health screenings; and
Providing financial support to local libraries for development of information repositories on solar energy, including materials on the hazards and benefits of commercial development. Electronic repositories established by the operators could also be of great value.