Reducing greenhouse gas emission by making energy systems less carbonintensive is a goal of governments everywhere in the industrialized world. One approach that is gaining ground in California is the development of large-scale solar thermal plants in the Mojave Desert. Energy companies have won federal and state government support in the form of expedited permitting procedures and financial subsidies. Technological and financial barriers to building solar thermal plants with generation capacities in excess of 500 MW are no longer insurmountable, and public support for expanding renewable energy production is strong. The construction of such plants is being advanced as part of

a ‘Solar Grand Plan’ according to which a large fraction of US electricity needs would be produced in the southwest deserts and exported to population centers via high voltage transmission lines (Zweibel et al. 2007). Organized local opposition, however, is emerging as a major barrier to expanding solar power generation in California.