Defending the Desert



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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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Palen Solar Power Towers: Energy Commission Recommends License for First Tower

September 12. 2014 - Riverside County CA - The two commissioners of the California Energy Commission (CEC) presiding over the hearing and review of the Palen Solar Electric Generating System (PSEGS) have written their Revised Presiding Member's Proposed Decision which recommends phase 1 be licensed, one solar power tower. Then a second power tower with thermal energy storage may be built in the future if the petitioner BrightSource Energy seeks to amend yet again. The decision will be passed on to a vote of the whole five commsiioners for final approval. More >>here.

Kaiser Gets the Mine, Joshua Tree National Park and Desert Communities Get the Shaft

September 8, 2014 - Chuckwalla Valley, California -The State Mining and Geology Board scheduled a hearing on October 1st, in Palm Desert CA for the Kaiser Eagle Mountain mine, surrounded by Joshua Tree National Park. More >>here.

Silver State South Solar Project Breaks Ground

September 5, 2014 - Yesterday Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze participated in the ground breaking of the Silver State South solar project in Ivanpah Valley, Nevada. This is a 250 MW solar energy project on Mojave Desert creosote, yucca, and catclaw acacia habitat. First Solar Senior Vice President Brian Stanley and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources also joined in.

First Solar will soon be bulldozing 2,500 acres of good quality desert tortoise habitat on these public lands across from the Ivanpah solar power towers. They have already pulled 38 tortoises out of the habitat on 1,000 acres. These solar panels should go on rooftops. We will have photos.

Blythe Mesa Solar Power Project

August 31, 2014 - Blythe CA -This is yet another large-scale solar project next to the Colorado River in California, in addition to two others that have been approved and adding to the cumulative impacts to local communities and birdlife in the area.

Renewable Resources Group is propsoing to build a 485 megawatt photovoltaic power plant along Interstate-10 three miles west of the city of Blythe CA, on private old agircutlural land on 3,587 acres. Public comment ended on August 4, 2014.

Even though this project is not sited on an intact desert ecosystem, Basin & Range Watch does not support it because it impacts the local residents in a negative way. We value the concerns of desert communities, and some of this project would surround private residences and destroy rural quality of life, according to locals we have spoken to. We support rooftop and urban structure solar installations as the first choice to meet the need for renewable energy.

See the Bureau of Land Management page on this project here:

Environmental Group Sues to Protect Endangered Yuma Clapper Rail

August 27, 2014 - The Center for Biological Diversity announced it will be suing the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the Yuma clapper rain, two of which have been found dead at large-scale solar power plants in the desert.

Read more at Chris Clarks's KCET ReWire:

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm Project Requesting MORE Groundwater Pumped During Record Drought in California

August 26, 2014 - Riverside County, CA - During California's worst drought in recorded history, First Solar's Desert Sunlight Solar Farm Project is requesting a 50 acre-feet increase in the amount of groundwater the project is allowed to pump from the desert aquifer. The Bureau of Land Management is preparing an Environmental Assessment to evaluate the effects of this action. Remediation efforts from recent heavy summer rains are part of the need. More >>here.

Spring Valley Wind Project with More Bat Deaths than Predicted

August 18, 2014 - The eastern Nevada wind project that was built too close to a major roosting colony of Mexican free-tailed bats has been forced to change operations after its turbines killed triple the number of bats allowed under an agreement with federal regulators. Read more at the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Birds Igniting in Midair: CBS News Reports on Ivanpah and Palen Solar Powwer Towers

August 18, 2014 - CBS News headlines the controversy over bird deaths at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System raised by biologists:

California Energy Commission Evidentiary Hearing on the Palen Solar Electric Generating System

August 10, 2014 - Blythe CA - Basin & Range Watch intervened in the California Energy Commission (CEC) proceeding of this petition to amend the original Palen solar project application after BrightSource Energy bought the application from now bankrupt Solar Millennium. The current project would involve two solar power towers that would superheat water into steam to turn steam turbines in power blocks. Hundreds of thousands of mirrors (heliostats) in circles around the towers would aim sunlight onto the receiver of the tower to heat the water into steam.

The California Energy Commission held an evidentiary hearing in Blythe over two long days, July 29 and 30, 2014, where all intervenors, the petitioner BrightSource Energy, staff of the Energy Commission, and the public gathered. Intervenors include Basin & Range Watch, Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), and Californians for Renewable Energy (CARE) - La Cuna de Aztlan. More >>here.

Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project Meetings

August 10, 2014 - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has scheduled four public scoping meetings for the proposed Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project. These meeting are supposed to be set up to allow the public to provide input over the pending impacts a large project like this project will have. Please remember to submit a WRITTEN comment because the BLM’s California Desert District will not record spoken comments at public meetings. The transmission line will open up energy sprawl to the Mojave Desert and rural communities in Lucerne, Johnson and Apple Valleys, San Bernardino County, California.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Says Yuma Clapper Rail Kill Likely for Solar Project

August 1, 2014 - Amargosa Valley NV - The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) sent a letter dated July 11, 2014 to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission concerning the likely killing of a rare Yuma clapper rail which is federally endangered, at the 110 MW Sunshine Valley Solar Project on private land in Amargosa Valley. The proposed project would be 8 miles northwest of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge where occupied marsh habitat exists. FWS said it beleives an incidental take of Yuma clapper rail is likely. At least one Yuma clapper rail has been found killed at the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in Riverside County. FWS recommended that the parent company First Solar develop a Habitat Conservation Plan to support an application for an incidental take permit for Yuma clapper rail. Additionally the Service wants the developer to have a Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy to avoid, minimize, and mitigate deaths of birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Large Numbers of Tortoise Moved at Silver State South Solar Project

July 23, 2014 - The Bureau of Land Management informed us in a personal communication today that biologists have found and removed a total of 38 desert tortoises from First Solar's Silver State South Solar Farm in eastern Ivanpah Valley, Clark County NV, within view of the three solar power towers of the first Ivanpah solar power plant in adjacent California. Small tortoises accounted for 21 of the total (under 160 millimeters), and 17 were large (over 160 mm). Tortoises were moved to recipient sites (where 15 large tortoises were found to be resident)

The numbers for Silver State South Phase 1 translocation: 13 transmittered/retransmittered tortoises from Phase I this spring, on approximately 700 acres cleared of tortoises for fence installation. Fifteen Phase II tortoises have already been transmittered (mainly retransmittered) this spring.

There are about 1,700 acres remaining to be cleared in Phase II.

Renewable Energy Projects We Are Following:

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

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


Proposal for an Ivanpah Valley Area of Critical Environmental Concern >>here

SearchlightSearchlight Wind Energy Project

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


SilurianSilurian Valley Wind and Solar Energy Project

Iberdrola plans on various wind and solar projects in this remote Mojave Desert valley southeast of Death Valley National Park, San Bernardino County, California >>here.

UmaPalen Solar Electric Generating System

500 MW solar power plant in Chuckwalla Valley ten miles east of Desert Center, on good Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat. BrightSource Energy and Abengoa partners on project. >>here


Silver StateSilver State South Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley, Clark County, Nevada >>here


statelineStateline Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley, CA >>here

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


sodaSoda Mountain Solar Project

Photovoltaic panel proposal in San Bernardino County, California >>here


fsDesert Sunlight Solar Farm

Many applications for giant solar developments in this Colorado Desert area of Chuckwalla Valley in Riverside County, California >>here. (under construction)


GensisGenesis 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, California. Water is a concern. >>here (under construction)


McCoy Solar Power Project

750 MW photovoltaic project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County near Blythe, by NextEra Energy. >>here


BlytheBlythe Solar Power Project

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



I-10 Corridor Projects in Chuckwalla Valley >>here

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)



Solar Reserve Rice Solar Energy Project

A 500-foot tall power tower in a remote California desert >>here.


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 at various locations. See >>here, and LADWP Solar Ranch; Northland Solar Project.

See also: Deepest Valley: The Story of Inyo Continues

ocotilloOcotillo Express Wind Facility

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

Spring 2011 Field Trip >>here


spring vallySpring Valley Wind Energy Project

Pattern Energy wants to build up to 85 giant 400-foot tall wind turbines in Spring Valley east of Ely, Nevada, 12 miles from the boundary of Great Basin National Park. The site is home to Pygmy rabbits, Sage grouse, and Pronghorn antelope. DEADLINE for Comments January 15, 2010! >>here (online)


tiptonMohave County Wind Farm Project

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

CalicoCalico Solar Project (SES Solar 1)

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


hidden hillsHidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System

BrightSource Energy's second solar thermal power tower proposal in Mesquite Valley, Inyo County CA >>here (not active)


eagleRio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility

BrightSource Energy's third solar thermal power tower proposal along the Colorado River near Blythe, San Bernardino County CA>>here (not active)

Abengoa Lathrop Wells Solar Facility

This project is no longer active. In Amargosa Valley, Nevada, a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant that may be upgraded to 500 MW, with 70 MW photovoltaic. >>here (withdrawn)



Imperial Valley Solar Project

This project is no longer active. 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, California >>here (withdrawn)


Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project

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


Pacific Solar Big Dune Photovoltaic Project

7,500-acre project in Amargosa Valley, Nevada, on rare and endemic beetle habitat >>here (not active)


AmargosaAmargosa Farm Road Project

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



Desert dandelionRidgecrest Solar Power Project

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


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

Robert Lundahl Films on Solar Issues, the Desert, and Indigenous Rights >>here

Granite Mountain Wind Energy Project

RES proposal to place wind turbines on a roadless pristine mountain in San Bernardino County, California, 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, Nevada 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


Storage Projects:

Eagle Mountain Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project

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

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, California >>here (not active)

Eldorado-Ivanpah Transmission Project

Southern California Edison proposal to upgrade and add lines in southern Nevada and eastern California 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 to coastal cities in San Diego County, but also tied to fossil fuel >>here (completed)


SCE Proposes 2 New Renewable Energy Transmission Projects in Mojave Desert >>here


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.


Community Power: Decentralized Renewable Energy in California by Al Weinrub >>1.22 MB PDF


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



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


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

Water in the Desert: Wet-Cooling and Dry-Cooling Technology for Solar Thermal Projects >>here





Prioritizing Where to Site Renewable Energy in California: California Energy Commission Workshop May 2012 >>here

Defining Disturbed and Degraded Lands for Renewable Energy >>here

Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for CA, NV, AZ, NM, CO, UT >>here

Solar Done Right Response >>here

Solar Energy Study Areas

Bureau of Land Management plan to designate renewable energy zones in the desert Southwest >>here

West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Zone >>here

Good Plan, Too Late: Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan New Website >>here

BLM Announces Solar Rental Fees for Public Land >>here

Governor's Renewable Energy Policy Conference

March 24, 2010 at UC Riverside, California: Expediting Solar and Wind in the Desert >>here


Expediting Big Solar: Padilla Bill Signed Into Law at Harper Lake (Where CSP Plants May Be Fighting Over Water) >>here

Solar Energy Development on Federal Lands: The Road to Consensus

Congressional Field Hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Chaired by Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), hosted by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs) >>here

Reid and Heller Introduce Competitive Lease Solar and Wind Bill for Public Lands >>here

Nevada: American Solar Energy Pilot Leasing Act of 2010 >>here

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

Fast-Tracking Renewable Energy

California Renewable Energy Coordination Offices, Renewable Energy Action Team, and the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan >>here. California Fast-Track solar and wind projects >>here. November 2009 summary of projects in Chuckwalla Valley >>here; more projects >>here

Nevada Fast-Track Projects >>here

Senator Feinstein Bill: California Desert Protection Act of 2010

Proposal for Mojave Trails National Monument and Sands to Snow National Monument, some new wilderness areas, some wilderness study areas removed, and a giant plan for a Mitigation Zone for renewable energy projects >>here. Abengoa Solar and Cogentrix Energy support the bill, according to the California Wilderness Coalition

January 2011: Senator Feinstein Crafts New California Desert Protection Bill Minus Solar Provisions >>here

All Renewable Energy Issues >>here

Summary of Solar

^July 2014 - Desert horned lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos) in the Mojave Desert of Nevada.







Calendar of Comment Deadlines

Comment on the Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project September 3, 2014 >>BLM

Comment on the Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment (REGPA) of Inyo County CA >>Inyo County

Comment on Palen Solar Electric Generating System proceedings >CEC

SF Gate Article: "California solar projects plan undergoing major overhaul"

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

Great New Website Helping to Preserve Rural Communities, Mojave Communities Conservation Collaborative:

New Website of Interest: Deepest Valley: The Story of Inyo Continues

Check Out the Watch East Kern Website - Good Information on Our Precious Desert Groundwater

Visit to Los Angeles Dep of Water and Power Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch Proposed Site and Manzanar National Historic Site >>here

Visit to the Northland Power Independence Solar Project >>here

Comment on the Southern Owens Valley Solar Ranch Project >>here

Please Sign the Petition: Save the Blythe Sacred Sites from Sprawling Energy Development and Solar Power Projects >>here

Photos of the Raptor Migration on the Searchlight Hills >>here






More Renewable Energy NEWS >>here



Desert Pavement: A Natural Soil Type >>here

Hiking the Desert










Reward Mine Gets Permit >>here




"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













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