Defending the Desert



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Protecting the Basin and Range Province



Basin and Range Watch is a group of volunteers who live in the deserts of Nevada and California, working to stop the destruction of our desert homeland. Federal and many state agencies and some local governments are seeking to open up millions of acres of unspoiled habitat in our region to industrial renewable energy development. Our goal is to identify the problems of energy sprawl and find solutions that will preserve our natural ecosystems and open spaces. We support renewable energy but advocate for better national and state planning.

Come visit and experience the great beauty of spring wildflowers, vast open vistas, bird watching trails, and wildlife viewing.

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Tornado Impacts to Desert Sunlight Solar Farm

August 28, 2015 - Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County CA - As strange as it may seem in the California Desert, and more likely in Oklahoma, a tornado that had ripped through the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm last April caused extensive damage.

According to the Bureau of Land Management (personal communication), there were 154,843 modules damaged. All debris located outside of the project fence has been removed with no residual effect. All major broken glass has been removed from within the fence and plant. Glass and damaged structure removal has been manual with materials moved to staging areas via carts, trucks and trailers.

Broken glass is being shipped using 20 yard bins to Clean Harbors landfill in Button Willow CA. Recycled modules are being shipped via boxes to Veolia ES Technical Solutions in Phoenix AZ. There is no indication of soil contamination. This clean-up effort is progressing.

Ocotillo Express Wind Project Hearing in November

August 28, 2015 - On Novermber 3, 2015, oral arguments will be heard in the case involving the Ocotillo Express Wind Project in Imperial County CA. You can go to the US Courthouse in Pasadena CA at 9 AM. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will be hearing arguments from Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation, Desert Protective Council, and the Laborers’ International Union of North American, Local Union No. 1184.

Some background:

Palen: Abengoa Switches From Power Tower to Solar Trough Technology

August 27, 2015 - Riverside County CA - Attorneys for Abengoa sent in this letter to the California Energy Commission (CEC) to announce they were changing their design of the Palen Solar Power Project near Desert Center in the Colorado Desert from power tower to solar trough technology, which would have molten salt storage. This may complicate the review, as other trough plants using thermal salt storage need wet cooling instead of dry cooling technology. The Solana project in Arizona requires 3,000 acre-feet per year of groundwater for their wet-cooling towers. The Mojave solar trough project at Harper Lake CA uses about 2,000 acre feet a year. This is a large amount in drought-striken California, and is considerably more than the BrightSource solar power tower asked for with dry cooling technology.

Since it is has been five years after the original application, Abengoa must go back to the drawing board according to CEC policy. The CEC has permitted a solar trough design at the site already -- the former Solar Millennium project. The Bureau of Land Management never finalized that environmental impact statement, however. The project is in a Solar Energy Zone designated under the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement review.

Ivanpah Solar Power Tower Bird Deaths


August 24, 2015 - Ivanpah Valley CA - The latest bird kill report (winter 2014-15) for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System includes 25 roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus) and a host of other species. Burning or singing from the solar tower flux was only detected on one roadrunner. The rest of the kills are listed as “unknown”. Other species include Green wing teal, American kestrel, Hermit Thrush, Yellow rumped warbler and Lazuli Bunting to name a few. More >>here.

Comment on the Palen Solar Power Tower Proposal

August 22, 2015 - Riverside County CA - The California Energy Commission is considering Abengoa’s petition to extend the deadline for construction on the existing Palen Solar Power Plant permit. The commission is accepting comments until September 4, 2015 and will likely decide the issue at the September 9, 2015 meeting. The existing Palen Solar Power Project permit was issued in 2011 for a solar trough project that Abengoa doesn’t want to build. Abengoa only wants to extend the permit deadline so that they can amend it to ask for a new power tower project at that site. See >>here for a sample comment letter.

Rooftop Solar: The War on Net Metering

August 15, 2015 - Las Vegas NV - Basin & Range Watch participated in a Nevada Public Utilities Commission meeting where hundreds of rooftop-solar proponents came out to protest a petition by the utility NV Energy that would place a cap on new owners who could benefit from net metering, and add three new fees to their bills. We support solar in the right places -- such as urban rooftops -- which could keep solar projects off of desert ecosystems, if allowed to blossom. More >>here.

Searchlight Wind Project Granted Extension

August 14, 2015 - Las vegas NV - We attended a Nevada Public Utilties Commission meeting on the 12th, where the commission would hear comments and consider a request for a two-year extension by Apex Clean Energy to complete compliance items. We submitted comments that Apex (as Searchlight Wind LLC) has delayed start of constructiom for more than two and a half years since the Bureau of Land Management issued their Record of Decision, and the project was originally proposed seven years ago. We argued there has been significant new information since this time about impacts to golden eagles and desert tortoises which has not been considered. The commission voted, however, to extend the time allowed for Apex to start construction despite this.

Our Comments on the Draft Dry Lake North Mitigation Strategy

August 14, 2015 - As part of the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement post-approval plan, to streamline development of large-scale solar projects on eastern Nevada valleys >>here.

Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower Water Groundwater Discharge Permit

August 2015 - Tonopah NV - The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is applying for a five year permit to discharge up to 0.5 million gallons per day of industrial process wastewater, including cooling tower and boiler blowdown water, reverse osmosis reject water, demineralized water, oil/water separator water, and floor drain water, to three double-lined evaporation ponds. The permit would also authorize the discharge of up to 0.2 million gallons per day of demineralized water for heliostat washing, and 0.2 million gallons per day of untreated water for dust control. See the legal notice >>here.

Coming To a Desert Near You: San Joaquin Solar Least Conflict Analysis

August 11, 2015 - The California Energy Commission has initiated a private lands analysis in the San Joaquin Valley of California, to try to find the least conflicted lands that could site solar projects. Later this anlysis will move to the California Desert. We beleive this is one attempt to rescue the private lands part of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan that bifurcated and is presently only pursuing environmental review of public lands.

New Renewable Energy Bill Destructive of Desert

July 31, 2015 - The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act ( S. 1407, H.R. 2663) would further streamline devlopment of solar, wind, and geothermal energy resources on public land. The bill would include priority areas, exclusion areas, and variance zones, but this has already been done in the Solar Programmatic Impact Statement for several western states, in addition to the hugely complex Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan for California. The draft Resource Management Plan for Southern Nevada has proposed six more Solar Energy Zones before earlier plans had even begun to fill pre-existing zones. Adding yet another level of land management before these former plans are fully utilizied seems to us a waste of money and time, as well as further destroying wildlands. Of course, none of these plans would be needed if governments pushed for energy efficiency and rooftop solar policies first.

The bill calls for programmatic review of threatened and endangered species and senstive resources, a tactic which we have observed to be lacking when it comes to protecting these resources for future generations.

See The Mojave Desert Blog for more.

McCain Valley Wind Project Gets Power Purchase Agreement

July 30, 2015 - Eastern San Diego County CA - Seeking to build a massive wind project in wild beautiful backcountry, developer Iberdrola Renewables has signed a power purchase agreement with Southern California Edison. The wind project would sprawl over 14,000 acres. The small region is very biologically diverse and with local communities that have opposed such industrial energy development in their rural countryside, and Basin & Range Watch continues to advocate for energy efficiency and rooftop solar instead of bulldozing new roads and building tall wind turbines in wild lands.


Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project Operation May Be Delayed Until December

Crescent Dunes power tower

^Solar power tower not operational in June 2015.

July 25, 2015 - Tonopah NV - Four years ago, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued this press release saying the Solar Reserve Crescent Dunes Project began construction. It was supposed to be complete a year ago and the latest target date for going on line was July, 2015. It is still not operational. According to the BLM public information officer, the company mentioned December as a possible start date, over one year later than the original target date for producing energy. The project received a $785 million Department of Energy loan. Basin & Range Watch contacted Solar Reserve, and they replied they were not disclosing the secific date to be online yet.

News Archive: News page 2.....News page 1






















^Late August 2015 - Birds are migrating southward through the Great Basin now; Vesper sparrows in a saltgrass flat in Nevada.





The Better Alternative: Rooftop Solar and Energy Efficiency (California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan) >>here - Sign the Petition



Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) >>here


Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for CA, NV, AZ, NM, CO, UT >>here - Solar Done Right Response >>here



Inyo County Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment>>here

Las Vegas Resource Managament Plan >>here

Solar Projects (Active):




Blythe Solar Power Project

A huge 1,000 MW photovoltaic panel project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County with a 5,950 acre footprint. Cultural issues, Fringe-toed lizards, and Desert tortoise are concerns. >>here (under construction)

Crescent Dunes Solar Project

Solar Reserve Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. A 100 MW power tower project with molten salt storage, near Tonopah, Nevada >>here (under construction)

Desert Quartzite Solar Farm

A 2,500-acre photovoltaic project by First Solar near Blythe, in Riverside County, California >>here

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm

A large-scale First Solar photovoltaic project in Colorado Desert area of Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County, California >>here (in operation)

I-10 Corridor Projects in Chuckwalla Valley >>here

Genesis Solar Energy Project

NextEra Energy proposes to build a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant near Ford Dry Lake in Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County, CA. Water is a concern. >>here (under construction)

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource's solar thermal power tower proposal in Ivanpah Valley, San Bernardino County CA >>here Updates >>here (online)

Luning Solar Energy Project

100 MW photovoltaic project in Mineral County, NV >>here (approved)

McCoy Solar Power Project

750 MW photovoltaic project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County near Blythe CA, by NextEra Energy. >>here (under construction)

Owens Valley Solar Projects

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and private companies are planning on developing large-scale solar facilities in Owens Valley in eastern CA at various locations. See >>here, and LADWP Solar Ranch; Northland Solar Project.

Palen Solar Electric Generating System

500 MW solar power plant in Chuckwalla Valley ten miles east of Desert Center CA, on good Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat. Abengoa Solar. >>here

Silver State South Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley, Clark County NV >>here (under construction)

Soda Mountain Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in San Bernardino County CA>>here

Last Spring at Soda Mountain? >>here

Stateline Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley CA >>here (under construction)

See also Ivanpah Updates page >>here; May 2011 >>here

Sunshine Valley Solar Project

A 110 MW photovoltaic project by First Solar on private land in Amargosa Valley NV that is close to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refgue. Federally Endangered Yuma clapper rails may be threatened by the "lake effect" of the solar panels >>here

Solar Demonstration Area in Nevada Test Site by Department of Energy >>here

Wind Projects (Active):




Ocotillo Express Wind Facility

Pattern Energy's project on the boundary of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Imperial County CA >>here (online)

Spring 2011 Field Trip >>here

Mohave County Wind Farm

On the White Hills and fan next to Lake Mead National Recreation Area in northwestern AZ, near Mt. Tipton Wilderness and by places where California condors have been sighted from Grand Canyon reintroductions >>here

Searchlight Wind Energy Project

Duke Energy's proposal to place giant wind turbines over the Searchlight Hills, Clark County NV >>here.

Silurian Valley Wind and Solar Project

Iberdrola plans on various wind and solar projects in this remote Mojave Desert valley southeast of Death Valley National Park, San Bernardino County, CA >>here. (Solar project rejected by Bureau of Land Management)

Spring Valley Wind Energy Project

Pattern Energy wants to build up to 85 giant 400-foot tall wind turbines in Spring Valley east of Ely NV, 12 miles from the boundary of Great Basin National Park. The site is home to Pygmy rabbits, Sage grouse, and Pronghorn antelope >>here (online)

Transmission Projects:


Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project

A large Southern California Edison transmission project from Barstow CA south along State Route 247 which would open up huge swaths of desert and threaten local communities with energy sprawl >>here

Eldorado-Ivanpah Transmission Project

Southern California Edison proposal to upgrade and add lines in southern NV and eastern CA in Ivanpah Valley, to deliver future renewable energy to coastal cities >>here (completed)

Sunrise Powerlink

Southern California proposed mega-powerline to supposedly link wind and solar in the eastern deserts and Baja, Mexico to coastal cities in San Diego County CA, but also tied to fossil fuel >>here (completed)

SCE Proposes two New Renewable Energy Transmission Projects in the Mojave Desert >>here

Inactive or Withdrawn Solar Projects:


Amargosa Farm Road Project

Proposal with storage in Amargosa Valley, Nye County NV >>here (not active)

Big Dune Solar Prohject

7,500-acre project in Amargosa Valley NV by Pacific Solar, on rare and endemic beetle habitat >>here (inactive)

Calico Solar Project

This project is larger than the city of Berkeley. K Road project by the proposed Cady Mountains Wilderness, San Bernardino County CA >>here. Updates >>here (withdrawn)

Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource Energy's second solar thermal power tower proposal in Mesquite Valley, Inyo County CA >>here (withdrawn)

Imperial Valley Solar Project

Former Tessera Stirling dish project on 6,500 acres sited on archaeologically sensitive Colorado Desert with Flat-tailed horned lizards, west of El Centro, Imperial County CA >>here (withdrawn)

Lathrop Wells Solar Facility

An older Abengoa application. In Amargosa Valle NV, a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant that may be upgraded to 500 MW, with 70 MW photovoltaic >>here (withdrawn)

Lucerne Valley Solar Project

Chevron Energy Solutions is proposing to build a 516-acre photovoltaic project on Mojave Desert with Joshua trees and tortoises in Lucerne Valley CA. Some call the area disturbed, but we disagree >>here (inactive)

Rice Solar Energy Project

A 500-foot tall power tower in a remote CA desert by Solar Reserve >>here (inactive)

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal for Kern County CA, in the West Mojave Desert >>here. Updates page >>here (terminated)

Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource Energy's third solar thermal power tower proposal along the Colorado River near Blythe, San Bernardino County CA>>here (inactive)

Inactive or Withdrawn Wind Projects:

Granite Mountain Wind Energy Project

RES proposal to place wind turbines on a roadless pristine mountain in San Bernardino County CA, home to the rare Ford's Indra swallowtail >>here

Wilson Creek/Table Mountain Wind Project

This project has been canceled. A proposed 990 MW wind farm on 30,000 acres of beautiful Great Basin mountain range with elk and sage grouse, a popular recreation area in Lincoln County NV near Pioche >>here (withdrawn)


Wind Project Impacts - Photos of Construction in the Mojave Desert and Tehachapi Grassland >>here

Wind Project Proposed for Eastern Edge of Joshua Tree National Park >>here

Inactive Transmission Projects:


Green Path North Transmission Project

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power high-voltage line would cut through Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in San Bernardino County CA >>here (not active)

Storage Projects:


Eagle Mountain Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project

An area that should be part of Joshua Tree National Park, in Riverside County CA. Related to the renewable energy projects along the I-10 corridor >>here

Better Renewable Energy Alternatives:



Sign the Petition by Solar Done Right (scroll down to petition on left front page)


This initiative will bring citizens together to demand a more cost-effective, faster, less damaging, and more democratic path to renewable energy. Our goal is to move renewable energy development away from our ecologically rich and agriculturally important lands and onto rooftops and already-developed areas. Solar Done Right will take this petition to top energy policymakers in our government: the White House, Department of Interior, Department of Energy.

Rooftop Solar and Energy Efficiency (California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan) >>here - Sign the Petition






Desert Tortoise Recovery: Science and Politics Clash >>here

New Desert Tortoise Species Described, Mojave Population Unique, Implications for Big Solar and Conservation >>here

Revised Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Fails to Address Renewable Energy Sprawl >>here

Golden Eagle Research in the Desert: Renewable Energy Impacts >>here

BRW Recommends Agencies Follow the Final Report of the Independant Science Advisors to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan >>here

Desert Pavement: A Natural Soil Type >>here

Sand Lizards of the Desert: Fringe-toed Lizards >>here

Flat-tailed Horned Lizard in Trouble in Imperial Valley, California >>here

Evolutionary Hotsports in the Mojave Desert >>here

Carbon Sequestration in the Desert: Dr. Michael Allen Paper on Gaps in Desert Research >>here

Letter From an Ecologist: Solar Development Threatens the Desert >>here

Renewable Energy Issues >>here







Calendar of Comment Deadlines

Comment on the Draft Mitigation Strategy for Dry Lake Valley North Solar Energy Zone in eastern Nevada, due August 28, 2015 >>BLM

Palen Solar Power Tower - comment by September 9, 2015 on a proposed extension to construct >>CEC

Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan - Final Environmental Impact Statement may be out in November 2015

Of Interest:

Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan >>here

Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project in the California Desert >>here

Robert Lundahl Film: "Who Are My People?" >>here





More Renewable Energy NEWS >>here




Hiking the Desert














"In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe."

--Edward Abbey, 1967, Desert Solitaire


"Polite conversationalists leave no mark, save the scar upon the earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground."

--David Brower













All text and photographs Copyright 2014 Basin and Range Watch unless otherwise stated. Basin and Range Watch is an all-volunteer group which does not accept donations from any corporation, individual, or entity.
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