Inyo County Planning Commission Votes on Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment
March 5, 2015 - Independence CA - The Inyo County Planning Commission voted 5-0 in favor of a recommendation on the Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment (REGPA) on March 4, to the applause of many in the room. The Commission recommended limiting solar development in Inyo County to projects less than 20 MW. The Commission also recommended reducing the Solar Energy Development Areas (SEDAs), eliminating Charleston View SEDA and Chicago Valley SEDA completely, and reducing Rose Valley SEDA, Pearsonville SEDA, and Owens Lake SEDA significantly in size. The Inyo County Board of Supervisors will vote on the Planning Commission’s REGPA recommendations on March 24th in Independence, CA
Large Bird Kill at Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower During Testing
^"Halo" testing solar flux above the tower that killed birds.
February 18, 2015 - Basin & Range Watch visited the Crescent Dunes solar power tower to observe testing on February 17 and we talked in person with Bureau of Land Management personnel in Tonopah to discuss a recent bird mortality event.
We learned that 130 waterbirds (although we have yet to see a purported video, other sources say they were passerines) were killed in the solar flux of the power tower during a four hour period on January 14, as the birds flew into the intense solar flux of a special test arrangement of mirrors above the tower receiver. A January 2014 compliance report explains what biologists on the ground saw and reported to BLM, the species of bird is not yet clarified. During this survey, several biologists on the project site during surveys reported seeing the birds fly into the solar flux, "turn white, and vaporize." No remains were found. More >>here.
Second Golden Eagle Killed at Spring Valley Wind Project
February 18, 2015 - Spring Valley NV - A second golden eagle was found dead on January 9, 2015, next to a wind turbine generator at the Spring Valley Wind Project next to Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada. The first golden eagle was found two years ago in February 2013. We found the second mortality record while examining the Year two cumulative impacts list October 2014 to Feb 14, 2015.
The following is from WEST, Inc. (Bureau of Land Management personal communication):
The GOEA [golden eagle] was at a scheduled search turbine, but was found incidentall y, not during a scheduled search (reported on incidental tab of report). In response to the GOEA fatality and per the Avian and Bat Protection Plan, we also completed searches of the 44 non-scheduled turbines. Only one fatality was documented during those extra searches (a horned lark). It is reported on third tab as an incidental since it was at one of the non-scheduled turbines (D7).
US Fish and Wildlife Service told us in a personal communication that this is under investigation. More >>here.
Soda Mountain Solar Project Protest
February 14, 2015 - California/Nevada Desert Committee members protest Soda Mountain Solar, a Bechtel proposed project that will disrupt bighorn sheep migration and damage burrowing owl, kit fox and desert tortoise habitat.
BrightSource Looking for Utility to Buy Hidden Hills Solar Power Tower Electricity
February 3, 2015 - According to a status report sent by BrightSource Energy to the California Energy Commission yesterday, the company is seeking buyers for its proposed Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System project. It said, "The applicant is actively monitoring and participating in the 2015 renewable procurement RFO’s with CA IOU’s. The 2015 procurement window will run through Q2 2015 wherein the applicant will be bidding-in the BrightSource power tower CSP platform."
But BrightSource also said it is seeking a project partner to help build the project. We believe the company will seek to integrate thermal storage with their power tower design to make the massive and expensive solar project more appealing to the California market.
Grading of Desert Begins at Stateline and Silver State South Solar Projects
^Tractors and water trucks grade the desert in preparation for placing solar photovoltaic panels. The Metamorphic Hill lies just beyond.
January 22, 2015 - Ivanpah Valley CA and NV - About 1,000 acres have been bulldozed for the Silver State South Solar Farm and another nearly 1,000 acres have been bulldozed for the nearby Stateline Solar Farm as of this week. These projects are being constructed with 100 percent grading of desert ecosystems and tortoise habitat. All in all, now with the Ivanpah solar power towers, about 12 square miles of living desert habitat have been sacrificed for largescale solar projects in Ivanpah Valley, CA and NV.
Limited Construction to Begin at Blythe Solar Project
January 22, 2015 -Blythe CA - The Blythe Solar Power Project has been given the go-ahead to start limited construction activities while the California Energy Commission staff is in the process of completing its review, including grading 10 acres for parking lots and buildings, building a gen-tie line, installing fencing (including tortoise exclusion fencing) and a second well. More >>here.
Turbine Fire at Ocotillo Wind Facility
January 17, 2015 - Ocotillo CA - On January 15 residents reported a fire on a wind turbine generator (number 110) in the afternoon. The desert smelled like burning fiberglass according to Jim Pelley, a resident who took photos of the event. The area was not cordoned off to public access, and only some of the wind turbine generators were curtailed the next morning. Residents have reported several oil leaks on turbines, which might have been a cause of the fire. More photos >>here.
Bighorn Sheep Experts Say Soda Mountain Solar Project Would Harm Connectivity
January 13, 2015 - San Bernardino County CA - Two noted wildlife biologists have written a column describing how important the Soda Mountain valley is for bighorn sheep connectivity. John Wehausen, Ph.D., an applied population ecologist who has studied bighorn sheep populations in California since 1974, and Clinton Epps, Ph.D., an associate professor at Oregon State University who specializes in mammal conservation.
They write, "The proposed Soda Mountain Solar Project would straddle Interstate 15 and cover areas between the north and south Soda Mountains on the northwestern edge of the Mojave National Preserve, pinching off the best location to re-establish important bighorn sheep movements that have been severed by I-15. The proposed development, which would include solar arrays, infrastructure and roads, would likely prevent bighorn from moving through the project area."
Avian Monitoring Tower Admitted to Not Work
January 1, 2015 - Ocotillo CA - Personal communication with the Bureau of Land Management and the US Fish and Wildlife Service has informed us that Pattern Energy is considering shutting down the avian monitoring station (High Tech Avian Tower) built to watch out for any birds that may be hit by the turbines at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility in Imperial County CA. They are talking about applying for a Golden Eagle Take (kill) permit with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Pattern says mirage-like heat waves disrupt their filming and radar equipment.
Write the Public Utilities Commission to Stop the Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project
December 29, 2014 - The Mojave Communities Conservation Collaborative (MC-3) is reaching out to ask for your participation. During the next week, MC-3 asks you to please make time to write a personal letter regarding the pending application with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for a Certificate of Public Convenience Necessity (CPCN) for Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Coolwater Lugo Transmission Project. As a result of the recent announcement by NRG of the retirement of their Coolwater Generating facility (with a capacity 636 megawatts that now will no longer be using SCE’s transmission grid) the California Public Utility Commission is requiring SCE to clarify the need for their Coolwater Lugo Transmission Project. Their response is due by January 8, 2014. See more >>here.
First Solar Hits Another Desert Tortoise Jackpot! 152 Relocated
December 16, 2014 - Clark County NV - Most of the desert tortoises have been cleared from the 2,500 acre Silver State South solar project located in the Ivanpah Valley near Primm, Nevada. Now that the season is over, the total numbers are in. A total of 152 desert tortoises have been dug up and removed from the Right of Way for this project. 63 large (adult over 160 millimeters shell length) tortoises and 89 small (juvenile and subadult) have been relocated off of the site. There is still a section that needs surveyed and there will be 5 meter transect surveys continuing this spring. The Bureau of Land Management was quick to tell us that there have been no mortalities yet, but the clearance was just completed in November. The animals are hibernating now. Fence pacing and predation would occur next spring. A summary of the numbers to date for the Silver State South solar project desert tortoise translocation is in this pdf.
Colorado River Indian Tribes Sue Over Blythe Solar Project
December 11, 2014 - Blythe CA - The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) is challenging the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management in court over the Modified Blythe Solar Project owned by NextEra and under construction by First Solar on the Palo Verde Mesa next to the Colorado River.
The filing says "The Project site is located within the ancestral homelands of the members of
the Colorado River Indian Tribes ("CRIT" or "Tribes"), whose reservation begins just a few miles northeast of the site. The religion and culture of CRIT's members are strongly connected to the physical environment of the area, including the ancient trails, petroglyphs, grindstones, hammerstones, and other cultural resources known to exist there. The removal or destruction of these artifacts and the development of the Project as planned will cause CRIT, its government, and its members irreparable harm.
"As set forth below, BLM's approval of the Project violated the National Historic Preservation Act ("NHPA"), the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act ("FLPMA"). BLM conducted no government-to-government consultation with CRIT prior to approval of the Project. It then allowed the project developer to begin ground-disturbing activities before any cultural resource monitoring or treatment plans were in place. The Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") prepared for the Project failed to take the requisite "hard look" at its impacts. And the Project itself is plainly inconsistent with the land use designations
adopted by the United States under FLPMA to protect the fragile desert ecosystem and cultural resources found at the Project site." See more >>here.
Streamlined Environmental Review for Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone
December 5, 2014 - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today released three Environmental Assessments (EAs) for solar projects on the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in Clark County, Nevada. Contrary to former policy where large-scale solar energy projects were reviewed with a more detailed and rigorous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines, this new streamlining would allow developers to get away with reduced and quicker review with meager EAs, a major step down in environmental review.
The projects, which propose to generate a combined total of 480 megawatts of electricity on 3,083 acres within the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, are the first to reach this stage of permitting under the Western Solar Plan. The EA reviews are completed in less than six months, compared to reviews under the previous project-by-project system with EISs that took on average 18 to 24 months to complete. More >>here.
Snow Mountain Solar Project
November 29, 2014 - Clark County NV - Although the Snow Mountain Solar Project will be located on Las Vegas Paiute reservation land, it will still replace 975 acres of old growth Mojave Desert habitat with solar panels. It is a Mojave yucca/Joshua tree woodland and has a healthy desert tortoise population. Among other species that would be impacted are the Gila monster, kit fox, burrowing owl and white margined penstemon. It will be built adjacent to the Red Rock National Conservation Area. The Snow Mountain Solar Project would involve the development of up to 975 acres of the Reservation to produce approximately 100 megawatts.
See the project here:
Wind Production Tax Credit Extension
November 26, 2014 - Lawmakers seek to "extend tax credits for production of wind energy, sought by investors of renewable energy projects in Nevada and across the West." It is that time of year again to ask politicians not to extend the Production Tax Credit for wind energy because:
Poorly-sited wind energy hurts avian wildlife -far more than the wind companies report.
Wind energy has a big terrestrial footprint which removes habitat for rare plants, burrowing owls, desert tortoise, eand other species.
Wind energy destroys the scenery and can be seen for miles both in the day and night (red flashing lights).
Wind energy destroys property values for land owners and takes away tourism dollars from small communities. The average wind farm only creates about 10 full time jobs.
Wind energy can cause health problems for people living near turbines who are exposed to the constant noise.
Wind energy often does not deliver the full promised capacity and creates demand for carbon spewing natural gas baseload and peaker power.
Solar on rooftops produces better clean energy without the impacts.
Solar Scorecard Released by Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Novemebr 23, 2014 - On November 11 the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) today released its fifth annual Solar Scorecard, ranking the world’s largest solar companies on their efforts to improve their environmental impacts.
From their website: for over three decades, SVTC has been a leader in encouraging electronics manufacturers to take lifecycle responsibility for their products. This includes protecting workers from toxic exposure and preventing hazardous e-waste dumping in developing countries like India, Ghana, and China that lack the proper infrastructure to protect workers and the environment. SVTC also seeks to stop the practice of sending e-waste to U.S. prisons for dismantling, which results in toxic exposure to inmates.
The Scorecard is a resource for consumers, institutional purchasers, investors, installers, and anyone who wants to purchase photovoltaic (PV) modules from responsible product stewards. The Scorecard reveals how companies perform on SVTC’s sustainability and social justice benchmarks to ensure that the PV manufacturers protect workers, communities, and the environment. The PV industry’s continued growth makes it critical that action be taken now to reduce the use of toxic chemicals, develop responsible recycling systems, and protect workers throughout global PV supply chains. Many PV companies want to produce truly clean and green energy systems and are taking steps to implement more sustainable practices. We note First Solar gets a zero for biodiversity suatainability.
Bureau of Land Management Rejects Solar Development in Silurian Valley
November 20, 2014 - Today the California State Office of the Bureau of Land management (BLM) announced it has rejected an application for a solar energy right-of-way in the Silurian Valley in San Bernardino County, California.
The statement will be posted shortly on BLM's website, and states:
The project application, submitted by a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, LLC, had proposed a 200 megawatt photovoltaic solar project on 1,616 acres about 10 miles north of Baker along highway 127. The BLM determined that the solar project would not be in the public interest after undergoing a rigorous review process in accordance with the BLM's Western Solar Plan.
The Plan, approved in October 2012, created Solar Energy Zones across the West where solar energy projects would be prioritized. The Plan does allow for solar development outside of Solar Energy Zones, however applications in these variance areas must go through a review process based on required factors specified in the Plan before determining if the area is suitable for solar development.
In making its determination on the Silurian Valley project, the BLM analyzed environmental data in addition to gathering information from the public and local, state, federal and tribal governments. The initial review and analysis indicated that the impacts to the Silurian Valley, a largely undisturbed valley that supports wildlife, an important piece of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, and recreational and scenic values, had too great of an impact on the resources. The BLM concluded that these impacts likely could not be mitigated and that the project would not be in the public interest. More >>here.
Public Meetings for the Las Vegas/Pahrump Draft Resource Management Plan: Solar
November 14, 2014 - Basin & Range Watch attended the North Las Vegas, Nevada, public meeting hosted by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on November 12 for the revised Resource Management Plan for southern Nevada public land. We asked BLM about the proposed new solar energy zone maps. We asked if there would be any more description than simply maps. We were told that this is all there will be, BLM looked for places in southern Nevada that would be suitable for solar energy based on percent slope, etc. Environmental Assessments (EAs) will be written for each project as they are proposed by a company, similar to how BLM is reviewing projects for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone under the parallel Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Solar PEIS). There are currently three proposals in that zone which will be reviewed with an EA, a lower level of detail for review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). But we said the Solar PEIS had a more thorough analysis of solar energy zones to begin with, doing a higher level EIS level of analysis, not just an EA level. There needs to be an EIS-level of analysis in this Resource Management Plan, we commented. BLM told us to submit a comment on this.
The meeting was crowded with members of the public concerned about off-road routes and land disposal, perhaps 200 people were present.
DRECP Comment Deadline Extension and Additional Public Meeting in Joshua Tree CA
November 13, 2014 - The California Energy Commission announced today that in repsonse to public comments the deadline for public input to the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) will be extended 45 days. Originally the comment deadline was January 9, 2015, now it is February 23, 2015. See www.drecp.org.
An additional DRECP public meeting put on by the Bureau of Land Management is now scheduled for November 19, 2014 at the City of Joshua Tree Community Center, San Bernardino County CA, from 5:30 to 8:30 PM.
Forbes Article on Ivanpah Solar Power Towers
November 12, 2014 - Basin & Range Watch does not support nuclear power because of the toxic waste associated with these plants, but Forbes has a good article describing in detail how the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System has not lived up to the cost, and rooftop photovoltaic solar would be a better option.
Thermal Solar Energy -- Some Technologies Really Are Dumb
The largest solar energy facility in the world is already irrelevant and has cost a lot more to construct than any other form of energy. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a 5-square-mile, 392 MW array that cost $2.2 billion. It is located in the Mojave Desert, where the Sun always shines, and is supposed to produce a billion kWhs per year for 25 years.
Comment on Inyo County Renewable Energy
November 8, 2014 - Comment on the Inyo County, California, Renwable Energy General Plan Amendment, more >>here.
And You Thought Palen Was Dead
November 4, 2014 - Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County CA - The Palen solar project, formerly 750-foot-tall solar power towers proposed by BrightSource Energy and the Spanish company Abengoa, is back. The project would forego natural gas back-up apparently and instead build molten salt storage. BrightSource and Abengoa had officially withdrawn the project in a letter to the California Energy Commission in September.
According to Abengoa's website: Abengoa, an international company that applies innovative technology solutions for sustainability in the energy and environmental sectors, has agreed to a deal with BrightSource Energy under which Abengoa will acquire BrightSource Energy's interest in the Palen Solar Energy Generating Station (PSEGS) project. Upon finalization of the purchase transaction, Abengoa will become the sole developer of the project. The Project will continue to use tower technology, but Abengoa intends to propose its molten salt tower proprietary technology, incorporating large thermal energy storage capacity. Details of the transaction have not been disclosed.
Mandalay Bay Resort Installs 6.4 Megawatt Rooftop Solar Array
October 22, 2014 - Las Vegas NV - Basin & Range Watch supports solar energy in the right places, and this is the perfect place: the roof of a resort/casino in the sunny Mojave Desert region of southern Nevada. NRG developed a large photovoltaic rooftop project on the Mandalay Bay convention center, second largest rooftop array in the U.S. and second largest in the world after the 7.52-MW installation in Punjab, India. NRG will lease the power to the resort. At peak production this will power nearly 20% of the resort's energy demand.
The installation uses SMA inverters and 21,324 panels from Hanwha Q CELLS and JA Solar, covering the 20 acres of roofs on the convention center and its neighboring buildings. It will go online in late November. If more buildings could be utilized this way, less Mojave Desert ecosystems would need to be bulldozed.
Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was the special guest at a rooftop event to unveil the project, which received a federal grant.
Preserve Juniper Flats Campaign
PRESERVE JUNIPER FLATS IS NEWEST CAMPAIGN FROM ALLIANCE FOR DESERT PRESERVATION
October 16, 2014 - San Bernardino County CA - Petition drive seeks National Conservation Land status for High Desert ridgelines bordering San Bernardino National Forest.
The Alliance for Desert Preservation has announced a campaign to secure National Conservation Land status for Juniper Flats, a 100,000-acre area managed by the Bureau of Land Management, stretching along High Desert ridgelines from Lucerne Valley to Apple Valley, California. National Conservation Land status would effectively prohibit all future development in Juniper Flats, while allowing for traditional uses such as hiking and off-highway driving.
Under the preferred alternative in the recently released draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), Juniper Flats was designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
“Juniper Flats is an extraordinarily beautiful, fragile, and ecologically abundant landscape,” said Rich Ravana, president of the Alliance for Desert Preservation. “The DRECP agencies recognized this by naming it an ACEC. But big energy companies are proven experts in doing end-runs around BLM labels like ACEC. Juniper Flats needs and merits the much stronger level of protection that National Conservation Land status would give it.” See more >>here.
Basin & Range Watch Sends Letter to Sunshine Valley Solar Over Yuma Clapper Rail
October 14, 2014 - Amargosa Valley NV - The Yuma clapper rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis) is a marsh bird listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. According to a July 2014 letter from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to Sunshine Valley Solar providing the agency’s comments on the Project, solar photovoltaic (“PV”) facilities like the Sunshine Valley Solar Project “present a new source of mortality for Yuma clapper rails” because “[t]hese facilities reflect light during the day and night, producing a lake or pond effect that may attract rail species and other water-associated birds.” Several rail bird mortalities caused by this “lake effect” at PV facilities have been documented, and the actual number of mortalities is likely higher than this documentation reflects, as scavengers often remove bird carcasses before they can be accounted for. We believes it would be both prudent and legally appropriate for Sunshine Valley Solar to initiate the application process for an Incidental Take Permit. See our letter >>here.
SPARC Comments to San Bernardino County, California, Over Renewable Energy
October 8, 2014 - San Bernardino County Partnership for Renewable Energy and Conservation comments on the Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project and Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, as well as better alternatives for renweable energy >>here.
Public Meetings for Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan
October 4, 2014 - Schedule of public meetings >>here.
Rice Solar Power Tower Loses Its Utility Agreement
October 4, 2014 - Riverside County CA - Pacific Gas & Electric canceled the power purchase agreement to the Rice power tower project after Solar Reserve failed to obtain financing for the solar development. It had been approved in December 2010 but delayed. SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said Rice was on "indefinite hold." His company has had significant delays constructing the similar Crescent Dunes power tower near Tonopah, Nevada because of engineering problems. The utility agreement could be re-negotiated in the future.
See more at The Desert Sun: http://www.desertsun.com/story/tech/science/energy/2014/10/03/rice-solar-project-blythe/16671507/
October 2, 2014 - The Draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is out. Any attempts to detail the 22 million acres are really a bait and switch for the public. Choosing parts of the desert to rescue from the bulldozer, while missing other equally imprtant and scenic regions is a losing game for the great open spaces of the California desert in our opinion.
There is a list of excuses for rejecting the Distributed Generation alternatives. The quote below is why a brownfield or disturbed land alternative was rejected. So are rooftops not “private, disturbed land”? How about parking lots? There is not enough private or disturbed land in all of southern California?
In the Alternatives chapter, “Siting renewable energy only on private land would not provide balance or flexibility in siting renewable energy development because there is limited private land throughout the DRECP Planning Area and the private land does not always correlate with areas with the
highest energy resource values. In some instances, development on private land would not align with existing transmission corridors. Meeting statewide and federal renewable energy goals within the DRECP planning area boundary exclusively on private lands would result in substantial conflicts with current and proposed land uses on private lands. Some counties expressed concern that development of renewable energy on private land could impact county land-use programs and controls, and could negatively affect local economies, county resources, local character, jobs, property tax revenue, agriculture, and recreation and historical resources (County of Riverside 2011a, DRECP 2011a). Private lands that were not incorporated into the analyzed alternatives have high biological resource conflicts and do not align with DRECP purpose and need. For these reasons, the Private and
Previously Disturbed Lands Alternative was not retained.”
For a CD of the massive document, contact:
DRECP Acting Executive Director
Protect Our Communities Sues Over Tule Wind Project
September 30, 2014 - Eastern San Diego County CA - This week, Protect Our Communities sued the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of the Interior over the approval of phase II of the Tule Wind project in the In-Ko-Pah Mountains of southeastern San Diego County. The lawsuit’s focus is eagles and other migratory birds. US Fish and Wildlife Service has characterized the entire Tule Wind project as Category 1, high risk to eagles with little opportunity to avoid or mitigate impacts. Last month, USFWS rejected Iberdrola Renewables’ eagle take permit application as incomplete and asked them to reapply for the entire project, not just the ridgeline portion. Previously USFWS has said the project might not be able to get an eagle take permit at all.
Some links of interest:
Important Meeting with the Bureau of Land Management Over Resources that would Impact Joshua Tree National Park and Desert Communities
September 29, 2014 - Desert Center CA - The BLM announced scoping meetings for Eagle Mountain Land Exchange Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) in Riverside County, see press release explaining:
BLM plans to go forward with giving away over 3,000 acres of mostly pristine desert canyons in the arms of Joshua Tree National Park, to a defunct mining company Kaiser Ventures, who unsuccessfully tried to construct the world's largest dump. After over two decades of successful litigation by environmentalists, that went all the way to the US Supreme Court, we say it is time to make Joshua Tree National Park whole again and return nearly 30,000 acres of land (including the defunct Kaiser mine) to the Park where it originated. WE must stop the Great Terrain Robbery being perpetrated by the BLM. More >>here.
Palen Solar Power Tower Project Withdrawn
September 29, 2014 - Unexpectedly, BrightSource Energy and Abengoa Solar withdrew their Palen Solar Electric Generating System project in a brief letter to the California Energy Commission on September 26. No reason was given. The project had been plagued by issues ranging from high potential bird mortality from solar flux, which is unfolding at the Ivanpah solar project, to cultural concerns by local tribes.
Other looming problems involved the Energy Commission's recommendation to integrate thermal storage into the solar power tower design, something which the developers admitted would take time to engineer. The first out of two power tower was on the verge of approval by the full five member Commission, after a yes recommendation by the two Presiding Members of the Commission recently. The second tower would need to have thermal storage to come before a review in the future.
The Desert Sun reported that BrightSource senior vice president Joe Desmond explained that the companies chose to withdraw the application in part because the project was unlikely to be completed by December 2016, meaning it wouldn’t qualify for a 30 percent investment tax credit that expires at the end of that year.
Secretary Jewell Announces Competitive Leasing Policy to Encourage Solar and Wind Energy Development on Public Lands, Create Greater Certainty for Developers
David Quick (BLM), 202-912-7413
September 25, 2014 - Washington, D.C. –But not for desert conservation or rural communities. As part of President Obama’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan to develop domestic renewable energy resources, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced a new competitive leasing process by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to help spur solar and wind energy development on public lands in the West.
“This competitive process will encourage access to leasing opportunities for renewable energy projects, create greater certainty for developers and provide a fair market return to American taxpayers for the use of public lands,” said Secretary Jewell. “The competitive proposal will help move the United States toward a cleaner environment – cutting carbon pollution and creating American jobs, while supplying communities with reliable and affordable power.”
The announcement builds upon Tuesday’s release of an innovative, landscape-level blueprint for renewable energy and conservation, covering more than 22 million acres in the California desert. The draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan will protect areas important for wildlife, recreation, cultural heritage and other uses while streamlining permitting in areas appropriate for siting of solar, wind and geothermal energy projects and associated transmission.
“Public lands offer some of the best opportunities for renewable energy development across the West,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “The draft rule is an important step toward having clear and fair rules for how to move energy development forward. This effort will complement critical programs like the Western Solar Plan, the
Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and the President’s Climate Action Plan.”
The proposed regulations would promote the use of “designated leasing areas” that include the Bureau of Land Management’s Solar Energy Zones (SEZs). The rule would establish competitive processes, terms and conditions (including rental and bonding requirements) for solar and wind energy development right-of-ways (ROWs) both inside and outside the designated leasing areas and provides incentives for leases in designated leasing areas. Existing regulations limit the competitive process to situations involving overlapping ROW applications.
“By offering incentives to promote the use of preferred areas with the least potential resource conflicts, the initiative will enable us to better manage solar and wind energy development on public lands using a landscape level approach, improving efficiency for developers and reassurance that lands not suitable for development will be protected,” added Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider.
The BLM’s action strengthens the Western Solar Energy Plan, an initiative to expand utility-scale solar energy production on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing SEZs with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development in those zones and a process for considering additional SEZs and solar projects. There are currently 19 designated SEZs covering more than 298,000 acres of BLM-managed land. If fully developed, projects in the designated leasing areas could produce as much as 27 gigawatts of solar energy -- enough to power about 8 million homes.
Earlier this year, the BLM held a competitive auction for renewable energy development in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in Nevada under existing regulations. The July 30 auction, which generated over $5.8 million in high bids, selected preferred applicants to develop utility-scale solar energy projects on six parcels across 3,000 acres in Clark County.
The President’s Climate Action Plan outlines a wide array of actions his administration is taking using existing authorities to reduce carbon pollution, increase energy efficiency, expand renewable and other low-carbon energy sources and strengthen resilience to extreme weather and other climate impacts. As part of the plan, announced in June 2013, the president directed the Interior Department to approve at least 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity on the public lands by 2020. Interior had already approved more than 10,000 megawatts of solar, wind and geothermal energy projects on public lands between 2009 and 2013.
Interior has permitted 52 utility-scale renewable energy projects since 2009 as part of a Department-wide effort to advance smart development of renewable energy on our nation’s public lands. Together, the wind, solar and geothermal projects could support more than 20,000 construction and operations jobs and generate over 14,000 megawatts of power to communities across the West, or enough to power nearly 4.8 million homes.
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 requires the BLM to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Under that mandate, BLM administers public lands for multiple uses, balancing the development of renewable and nonrenewable resources; conservation and sustained yield, managing the use of resources to ensure the future productivity of the land; and environmental stewardship, ensuring the protection of signature landscapes, wildlife habitats and cultural resources.
The Federal Register publication kicks off a 60-day comment period that closes on December 1, 2014.
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.
Bids Come In at Auction for Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone
July 3, 2014 - North Las Vegas, NV - After approval of the federal Programmatic Solar Environmental Impact Statement detailing several Solar Energy Zones in the Southwest states, on May 30, 2014, the Bureau of Land Management Nevada State Office published a Notice of Competitive Auction for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands in Nevada. This notice announces that the BLM will hold an oral auction on June 30, 2014, at the City of North Las Vegas Council Chambers, 2250 Las Vegas Blvd, North Las Vegas, NV 89030, to select high bidders and preferred applicants to submit right-of-way applications for solar energy projects within the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone. The BLM is offering up to approximately 3,083 acres of public land in 6 parcels within the SEZ.
Attendees at the auction report that several bids came in. Each parcel had at least two active bidders and resulted in bids totaling $5,835,000. Apparently five active bidders were present. It was not clear from the names given who the bidders represented.
Ivanpah Solar Power Towers Allowed to Burn More Natural Gas
June 28, 2014 - The California Energy Commission approved a request to raise the limit on the amount of natural gas burned in boilers at the Ivanpah solar project which requires steam heated by the sun and auxilliary boilers to power steam turbines to generate electricity. The notice states:
“Solar Partners have stated in their petition that the auxiliary boilers will need to operate an average of approximately 5 hours a day during daily startup (instead of the original expectation of an average of approximately 1 hour per day) in order to ensure that steam flow is sufficient to carry excess heat from the receivers in the towers and to ensure that equipment components continue to operate as designed. Based on ISEGS experience since December, 2013, Solar Partners became aware of a need for
additional fuel use in the auxiliary boiler during periods of intermittent cloud cover, after
the turbine tripped off-line during extensive cloud cover, and at the end of the day to
extend solar power production.” More >>here.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Issues License to Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Project
June 20, 2014 - On June 19 a bad project proposal was given a green light, a project that wastes a huge amount of water and for such a proposal to be given serious consideration during the worst drought the state has seen in its history is surprising. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted the license for this pumped hydro project next to Joshua Tree National Park. >>more.
Study Plan for Spring Valley Wind Project
June 12, 2014 - The post-contruction wildlife surveying and monitoring plans are contained in this February 2014 Study Plan report (1.07 MB PDF). The report details how bird and bat mortality studies will be carried out: surveys for dead birds and bats would only be done every other week for the first year, and then only every few years for the lifetime of the project. We feel this will miss much data, many dead bird and bat carcasses that will be scavenged and missed.
A Curtailment Study was done in 2012, a Fall-Only Bat Survey will be done in2016, Bat Acoustic Surveys will be undertaken, Avian Use Surveys, Raptor Nest Survey, and Annual Reports. See also >>Spring Valley Wind Projects updates.
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and New Solar Projects in the Amargosa Desert
June 3, 2014 - Amargosa Valley, NV - A site visit to a photovoltaic proposal by First Solar, Sunshine Valley Solar Project, and comments about waterbird mortality by the lake-effect of photovoltaic and mirror projects >>here.
Bureau of Land Managment Announces Competitive Bid for Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in Nevada
June 2, 2014 - As part of the federal solar energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, on May 30, 2014, the Bureau of Land managment (BLM) Nevada State Office published a Notice of Competitive Auction for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands in the State of Nevada. This notice announces that the BLM will hold an oral auction on June 30, 2014, at the City of North Las Vegas Council Chambers, 2250 Las Vegas Blvd, North Las Vegas, NV 89030, to select high bidders and preferred applicants to submit right-of-way applications for solar energy projects within the Dry Lake SEZ. The BLM is offering up to approximately 3,083 acres of public land in 6 parcels within the SEZ.
Existing regulations authorize the BLM to determine whether competition exists among Right-of-Way applications filed for the same facility or system. The regulations also allow the BLM to resolve any such competition by using competitive bidding procedures. The BLM will use a competitive sealed and oral bid process to select preferred applicants to submit ROW applications and plans of development for solar energy development in the Dry Lake SEZ. Details on fee and bid requirements are provided in the notice. The bid statement format and a complete description of the bid process are contained in an Invitation for Bids package (see the Dry Lake Competitive Leasing page of the BLM's Solar Energy Program Web site).
For more information visit the BLM Solar Energy Program Web Site at http://blmsolar.anl.gov
Flash-Glare Seen From an Airplane of Ivanpah Solar Power Towers
May 30, 2014 - See photos taken from a passeneger jet taking off from Las Vegas, Nevada, >>here.
Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower Photos from April and May
May 30, 2014 - Photos of the Solar Reserve project nearing completion in the desert of Tonopah, Nevada, >>here.
Tortoise Deaths, Bird Kills and Airplane Blinding at Ivanpah Solar Project
May 26, 2014 - The April compliance report for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System shows that tortoises continue to die. Three adult tortoises were found dead from canid predation, most likely coyote or kit fox. It is unknown whether the project activities in this once wild desert are attracting more coyotes and foxes which then find the translocated tortoises. Read more >>here.
The Future of Zzyzx: Solar Project or Wildlife?
May 22, 2014 - See the excellent blog article on the Soda Mountain Solar Project by Mojave Desert Blog. Bighorn sheep, Mojave tui chub, and rare desert springs are under threat.
More Tortoises Being Moved in Ivanpah Valley
May 13, 2014 - Two new large-scale solar projects in Ivanpah Valley, eastern San Bernardino County CA are beginning the "clearance" activities to make way for vast fields of photovoltaic arrays. The First Solar Stateline Solar Farm desert tortoise numbers so far according to the Bureau of Land Management are 16 removed (8 large and 8 small) from 500 acres. They have compliance reports on line: http://statelinesolareccmp.com/
For First Solar's Silver State South project in Clark County NV, they are removing tortoises from 1,000 acres out of the 2,427 acres total, but no numbers are yet available. After project site areas are fenced off and cleared of tortoises, grading can begin when BLM gives the go ahead.
Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower Update
April 30, 2014 - Solar Reserve is now testing their Crescent Dunes Solar Project. This is a solar power tower built on public land near Tonopah, Nevada similar to the ones built in Ivanpah Valley, but incorporates molten salt thermal storage. They finished installing their heliostats (reflector mirrors) about a month ago. Now the heat is being aimed at the tower and the focus block beneath the receiver in tests. According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), there is “solar flux” happening there now during the tests. Solar flux is the concentrated heat around the tower that can be lethal to birds and insects in a 2,000 foot radius around the tower. The BLM has assured us that no dead birds have been found yet. While it may be true that none were found, it should be noted that the Avian and Bat Protection Plan for the Crescent Dunes Project does not require focused monitoring until after the project goes on line. The mirrors have been sitting flat for about one year. Birds also collide with mirrors that create the lake effect, but no monitoring has taken place in a year. More >>here.
Tylerhorse Wind Energy Project
April 25, 2014 - Heartland Wind, LLC, has requested a right-of-way authorization to develop a wind energy facility with a proposed output of 60 megawatts and a project footprint of approximately 1,200 acres. The proposed project would be located on BLM-managed lands in Kern County approximately 15 miles west of California State Highway 14, 12 miles south of California State Highway 58, and 8 miles north of State Route 138. If approved, the authorization would also amend the California Desert Conservation Area Plan to identify the site as suitable for wind energy development. The area is in the range of the California condor.
Comment deadline is July 14, 2014.
Watch This Video on The Owens Valley Solar Story
April 26, 2014 - The YouTube video "Saving Payahüüpü: The Owens Valley Solar Story" was published on Apr 25, 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTV9Pd6AaNk&feature=youtu.be
"Saving Payahüüpü: The Owens Valley Solar Story" explores the land, people, history, and future of the Owens Valley as its community members work to build broad-based grassroots support at home and in Los Angeles to protect the natural, historic, and cultural resources of their valley.
"Saving Payahüüpü" focuses on the ways in which a 1200 acre industrial scale solar energy development project currently being proposed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power would cause severe and irreparable harm to Paiute cultural sites and to the integrity of the Manzanar National Historic Site located in the Owens Valley.
For more information visit:
Owens Valley Committee
Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation
Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley
Genesis Solar Energy Project Online
April 26, 2014 - Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County CA - The Genesis Solar Energy Project large-scale concentrated solar energy parabolic trough plant was dedicated on April 24 in a ceremony is now feeding electricity to the grid. The public was not invited even though the project recieved a huge Department of Energy loan gaurantee of $850 million to construct the project at $1.2 billion.
Ridgecrest Solar Project Finally Dead
April 25, 2014 - Ridgecrest CA - The committee presiding over the California Energy Commission application for the Ridgecrest Solar Power Project voted to terminate the application, after Solar Millennium went bankrupt and not other company was forthcoming to purchase the project in a basin which has been experiencing severe groundwater overdraft.
Department of Interior Announces Secretarial Order for Huge National Mitigation Plan for Public Lands Everywhere
April 10, 2014 - As if the Solar Programmatic Environmental Review Statement and Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan weren't enough, the federal government has announced it will be working on a landscape-level mitigation framework to enable "balanced development" of wind, solar, oil, and natural gas on public lands. The plan will try to incorporate all other conservation plans nationally.
Here is the report, A Strategy for Improving the Mitigation Policies and Practices of The Department of the Interior:
Bird Mortality Report for Solar Projects Released
April 8, 2014 - Requests by intervenors in the California Energy Commission proceedings of the Palen solar project for US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) studies on avian mortality at large-scale solar power plants under construction in the California desert have been answered. The CEC released a forensics report by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab on birds found dead at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, and the Genesis Solar Energy Project.
The report details how solar power towers may especially harm birds: "It appears that Ivanpah may act as a 'mega-trap,' attracting insects which in turn attract insect-eating birds, which are incapacitated by solar flux injury, thus attracting predators and creating an entire food chain
vulnerable to injury and death."
Going ahead with approval of new power towers such as Palen are problematic when so little is known about how they impact birds: "It must be emphasized that we currently have a very incomplete knowledge of the scope of avian mortality at these solar facilities. Challenges to data collection include: large facilities which are difficult to efficiently search for carcasses; vegetation and panels obscuring ground visibility; carcass loss due to scavenging; rapid degradation of carcass quality hindering cause of death and species determination; and inconsistent documentation of carcass history."
The report concludes: "Given these variables it is difficult to know the true scope of avian mortality at these facilities. The numbers of dead birds are likely underrepresented, perhaps vastly so. Observational and statistical studies to account for carcass loss may help us to gain a better sense of how many birds are being killed. Complete histories would help us to identify factors (such as vertical placement of mirrors) leading to mortalities. Continued monitoring is also advised as these facilities transition from construction to full operation. Of especial concern is the Ivanpah facility which was not fully-functioning at the time of the latest carcass submissions. In fact, all but 7 of the carcasses with solar flux injury and reported dates of collection were found at or prior to the USFWS site visit (October 21-24, 2013) and, therefore, represent flux mortality from a facility operating at only 33% capacity. Investigation into bat and insect mortalities at the power tower site should also be pursued."
Resource Agencies Comment on Silurian Solar Project Application
April 8, 2014 - The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and National Park Service (NPS) sent comment letters to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on their concerns with large-scale solar development in the Silurian Valley.
The USFWS stated strongly that the impacts to desert tortoise connectivity, migratory birds and golden eagles were too great and recommended BLM reject the application since it was in a variance area. Large solar panel arrays would create lake-effects that could negatively impact migrating birds, the agency commented. Saratoga Springs, playa lakes, Salt Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and springs in the Kingston Range all served as stopovers for birds in the region. Birds flying into solar panels that look like water could cause deaths.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife similarly recommended against the project in this relatively undisturbed habitat for numerous special status species. Both agencies cited the lack of surveys of many birds and rare plants, and the number of golden eagle nests in the area.
The National Park Service comment letter can be seen >>here.
Silurian Valley Solar Project Public Meeting Report
April 5, 2014 - On March 27 the Bureau of Land Management held a "pre-meeting" in Barstow CA to gather comments on Iberdrola's application to build a large-scale photovoltaic power plant in a remote desert valley in lands outside of the Solar Programmatic Impact Statement designated Solar Energy Zones. Basin & Rage Watch attended >>here.
First Solar in Action: Tortoises in Ivanpah Valley Face the Beginning of Destruction Today
April 4, 2014 - This Friday, First Solar will start digging threatened desert tortoises out of their burrows on about 2,000 more acres of good quality habitat in Ivanpah Valley, California and Nevada. Then the bulldozers will grade the desert ecosystem here to make room for photovoltaic panels that should be going on urban settings. The Interior Department approved two more massive pubic land photovoltaic projects on a critical linkage habitat for the threatened desert tortoise, on public land. The projects are called Silver State South and Stateline.
New Rail Storage Proposal on the Spring Range, NV
March 29, 2014 - A rail energy storage system north of Pahrump, Nye and Clark Counties, Nevada, is in the beginning stages of examination by the Bureau of Land management.
The preliminary proposal states, the proposal is for a "Transportation and Utility Systems and Facilities on Federal Lands for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a proposed Advanced Rail Energy Storage Regulation Energy Management (REM) project. This system is a gravity-based energy storage system utilizing electric shuttle trains operating on a single, steep-grade railroad track to store electric energy in the form of potential energy. The goal is to assist in electricity supply management on a regional electrical grid. The system accomplishes this by using electricity from the grid when electricity is abundant to power the locomotives uphill, then returning electricity to the grid when electricity is needed as the locomotives descend, their motors operating as generators."
The company ARES Nevada, LLC proposes to build the rail line in Carpenter Canyon in the Spring Mountains west of Mt. Charleston. The rail line would be 6 miles long. See the preliminary Plan of Development >>here.
Sign the Petition to Ask the White House to Protect Mojave National Preserve
February 17, 2014 - Bechtel proposes to build Soda Mountain Solar on 4,179 acres of public land adjacent to Mojave National Preserve, threatening the resources and landscape of this treasured unit of the National Park System.
The Soda Mountain project will interfere markedly with the habitat corridor linking Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks.
The environmental impacts of Soda Mountain include decreased spring discharge at Zzyzx, loss of habitat for the endangered Mohave tui chub, loss of high-quality desert tortoise habitat, increased habitat fragmentation for desert bighorn sheep, and loss of wildlife connectivity with nearby wilderness areas.
Soda Mountain will obstruct dramatic views into the Preserve and degrade the dark skies experience of the park's 550,000 annual visitors. >>more
The Owens Valley Committee Hosts Solar Done Right
March 20, 2014 - Bishop CA - Bill Powers of Powers Engineering in San Diego CA and Solar Done Right will speak at the fundraiser in Bishop on March 22. See the Owens Valley Committee website for details.
Spring Wildflowers at the Soda Mountain Solar Project Proposed Site
March 19, 2014 - Basin & Range Watch recently visited the proposed Bechtel solar power plant proposed site, a beautiful valley surrounded by the Soda Mountains. We oppose developing this valley next to Mojave National Preserve. See >>here to see why.
National Park Service Comment Letter Criticizes Soda Mountain Solar Project Proposal Adjacent to Mojave National Preserve
March 13, 2014 - A strongly worded comment letter to the Bureau of Land Management recommends that the Soda Mountain Solar Project proposed by Bechtel is not appropriately sited next to this park unit in the Mojave Desert of California. See the letter >>here.
Pilots Write Letters Over Dangers of Glare from Ivanpah Solar Power Towers
March 13, 2014 - San Bernardino County, CA - Basin & Range Watch in 2009 questioned California Energy Commission staff, Bureau of Land Management, and BrightSource Energy over the "flash-glare" that would be created by hundreds of thousands of mirrors on the desert landscape in Ivanpah Valley and how this would affect aircraft flying overhead. We brought this up again during the review and hearings for the Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System. We were told during both cases that this would not be a problem. Now that the mirrors exist in the real world and not in theory, the problems are becoming evident.
From KCET ReWire: "Pilots flying both private and commercial aircraft near Las Vegas have filed complaints abut possible unsafe conditions caused by a large solar power plant in the Mojave Desert, according to documents filed with a state agency, and Las Vegas officials are urging the plant's designer to do something about the problem.
"According to a March 10 letter from the Las Vegas McCarran Airport's Planning Manager Teresa Motley, pilot complaints of unsafe glare from the tens of thousands of billboard-sized mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) have been coming in since at least August 2013, with at least one pilot saying the glare from the facility interfered with the crew's ability to scan the sky for nearby aircraft." Read more at KCET's ReWire by Chris Clarke.
The original letter to the California Energy Commission, "Pilot Complaints of Visual Impacts from Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System" dated March 10, 2014, from the Clark County Department of Aviation can be seen >>here.
Defenders of Wildlife Sues to Protect Ivanpah Valley
March 9, 2014 - Defenders of Wildlife went to the courts on March 6 over the approval by Bureau of Land management of the Stateline and Silver State South solar projects that would block tortoise connectivity in Ivanpah Valley, CA. Defendents were named as Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Daniel Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Neil Kornze, Director of the Bureau of Land Management.
How to Deter Birds From Solar Power Towers (Or Not...)
March 8, 2012 - How will BrightSource Energy stop burning birds with their power towers?
BrightSource Energy has not been able to come up with new ideas that would prevent birds from getting burned in the radiant solar flux that would be produced by their Palen Solar Project power towers. BrightSource originally proposed to scare birds off from their power towers with plastic decoy owls, lasers, water cannons, netting, trained dogs, trained raptors and a host of other ideas.
They still are trying to get the agencies to adopt these mitigation ideas. The latest is called The Eagle Eye. Sounding like something that’s on sale in Radio Shack, “the Eagle Eye is an eight-inch tall pyramid-shaped structure covered in reflective materials that spins via a battery- or solar-operated motor atop a pole or other structure (Birdbusters 2012). It reflects constantly-changing beams from sunlight in a pattern that startles and disorients birds. The beams are roughly 150 feet long (WCS 2013). The reflective surface needs to be cleaned regularly as airborne particles dull the surface, reducing its reflectivity (Bird Barrier ® 2014).The constant flashes of light could visually impair low-flying aircraft near the project area and annoy nearby people (Bird Barrier® 2014), but this may not be of concern for a remotely-placed project. The effectiveness of mirrors and reflectors as a bird scaring technique is variable (Bishop et al. 2003), and is best suited for near-flying birds, so strategic placement would be important for large solar arrays.”
And of course the question would be, will birds become so disoriented by the Eagle Eye that they would fly into the solar flux and burn to death? See the proposal docketed at the California Energy Commission >>here.
Golden Eagle Research in the Desert: Renewable Energy Impacts
February 27, 2014 - Basin & Range Watch attended the 39th Annual Desert Tortoise Council Symposium in Ontario, California, where a session was held on golden eagle and other raptor research being done in the deserts of California and Nevada concerning their status, behavior, movements, nesting and protection. Lessons from the Altamount Pass wind project were also presented >>here.
March 8, 2014 - The California Bureau of Land Management will not record your comments at public meetings for largescale energy project proposals on public lands. This has been the case since last fall. We have asked the California State Director, Jim Kenna, to answer this question twice. He always has one of his subordinates answer the question. The answer is that “BLM will not record public comments at public meetings”. They will not give us a reason why. They tell us that the issue will come up on March 14-15th at the Desert Resource Advisory Council (DAC) meeting in Palm Springs. So if you decide to make a trip to a BLM public meeting about a largescale energy project, keep in mind that your comment will not go on the record and not be considered in the formal review process. Your written comment will be accepted and legally recorded. People who can’t write or have a disability that would prevent them from doing so are out of luck. This borders on discrimination.
We beleive public participation should not in any way be lessened during these reviews.
DAC: The Bureau of Land Management, Desert Advisory Committee (DAC), will conduct a field tour on Friday March 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and a public meeting on Saturday March 15 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The field trip and formal meeting are open to the public. Field trip and Saturday meeting agenda along with additional reports will be posted to this site as they become available.
Dead Northern Saw-whet Owl Found at Spring Valley Wind Project
February 27, 2014 - The bird mortality monitoring compliance for the Spring Valley Wind Project, located next to Great Basin National Park, Nevada on public lands reports a Northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus) mortality this winter. The find is “incidental” meaning it was not found during an official search. It makes one wonder what else is being missed and killed by the turbines. The nearby Swamp Cedars Area of Critical Environmental Concern is located right next to the wind farm and could be a breeding habitat for these owls. Some photos and information on the Spring Valley Wind Project can be seen >>here.
The Northern saw-whet owl breeds in conifer forests, including pinyon-juniper woodlands. Some owls move seasonally, and saw-whet owls may have been nesting in the swamp cedars or traveling through the area. They usually nest in old woodpecker holes.
In Nevada they may be uncommon, although probably are more widespread because of the difficulty of detecting the bird. Nesting has been confirmed in the White Pine Range, the Toiyabe Range, and in Great Basin National Park.
They are named for their loud persistent night-time song during the breeding season. Mice and other small mammals make up most of their diet.
Stateline and Silver State South Solar Projects Approved
^Mojave yuccas and creosote desert rich with life to be bulldozed and shredded.
February 19, 2014 - Today Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the approval of two additional solar energy projectsin Ivanpah Valley in California and Nevada, on high quality desert tortoise habitat that will block genetic connectivity between populations in the north and south. US Fish and Wildlife Service had recommended against buolding more largescale solar projects here to maintain tortoise movement corridors, and many environmental groups protested the projects (including Basin & Range Watch).
The 300-megawatt Stateline Solar Farm Project will be built in San Bernardino County, California, on approximately 1,685 acres of public land located two miles south of the California-Nevada border. The second project is the 250-megawatt Silver State South Solar Project located east of Primm, Nevada on approximately 2,400 acres of public land. Both projects are being developed by First Solar and have power purchase agreements from Southern California Edison for 20 years.
Bureau of Land Management Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze stated, “These solar projects reflect exemplary cooperation between the Bureau of Land Management and other federal, state and local agencies, enabling a thorough environmental review and robust mitigation provisions. Secretary Jewell’s commitment to a landscape-level approach represents a responsible balance between the need for renewable energy and our mandate to protect the public’s natural resources.”
Even though First Solar agreed to reduce the size of the projects, these will still amount to a significant amount of Mojave Desert ecosystems being bulldozed and graded flat, removing 100% of vegetation (not mowed as in the adjacent Ivanpah Solar Generating System design). BLM will expand the nearby Ivanpah Desert Wildlife Management Area by more than 20,000 acres. Basin & Range Watch and the Desert Tortoise Council had advocated for preservation of a much larger area for tortoises, and no more solar projects in this valley.
“As we implement the President’s Climate Action Plan to generate jobs, cut carbon pollution and move our economy toward clean energy sources, we need to do so in a way that takes the long view and avoids or minimizes conflicts with important natural and cultural resources,” said Jewell.
We disagree that this minimizes conflicts with natural and cultural resources (the valley is in the homeland for the Chemehuvi Tribe), but is rather a very poorly sited project in one of the densest tortoise populations left in the desert.
More Destruction in Ivanpah Valley Looming
February 16, 2014 - The Interior Department will apparently release the Record of Decision soon which will approve both the Silver State South and Stateline Solar Projects in Ivanpah Valley, California and Nevada. This will be the complete destruction of 5,000 additional acres of good quality desert tortoise habitat near the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. The Silver State South site is recognized as a desert tortoise wildlife linkage zone. Desert tortoises will be yanked out of their burrows and moved to another location. Some biologists believe that desert tortoise translocation can result in up to 50 percent mortality. The Fish and Wildlife Servcie has determined that over 2,000 threatened desert tortoises will be impacted by these two projects.
Beautiful Silurian Valley and Wilderness Areas Threatened by Solar and Wind Development
February 14, 2014 - A recent visit to Silurian Valley in the remote eastern California Mojave Desert, and the Hollow Hills Wilderness (photo above) reveal vast views and early wildflowers >>here.
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System Opening Ceremony
February 12, 2014 - Eastern San Bernardino County, CA - Agencies confirmed that the three power tower concentrating solar thermal plant have a grand opening ceremony this Thursday in the desert near the Nevada border. Interior Secretary Ernest Moniz will apparently be there. The ceremony is not open to the public. The project has been delayed due to engineering problems with such a massive new power plant, but may soon officially connect with the grid and go online after much testing. See our page >>here for more on this project.
See the Department of Energy's blog: http://energy.gov/articles/celebrating-completion-worlds-largest-concentrating-solar-power-plant
Sign the Petition to Save Eastern San Diego County Backcountry
February 5, 2014 - Near San Diego, CA - The Soitec Solar Project would include nearly 9,000 30-foot-tall panels covering some 1,700 acres on wetlands and meadows in the rural community of Boulevard, California.
BrightSource Working to Revive Palen Solar Project
February 4, 2014 - The California Energy Commission (CEC) on January 23, 2014, released a decision that the petitioner Palen Solar Holdings could work to gather new information in order to make the solar power tower project viable in the Commission's opinion. The petitioner had requested a delay in the final full commission decision on whether to end the application process, and the CEC granted this.
At a Committee conference, specific directions were given to gather data on reconfiguration and new mitigation measures. Palen Solar Holdings sent a letter to the CEC saying they were gathering this new information. BrightSource and the Spanish company Abengoa are the parent companies seeking to design and construct the Palen Solar Electric Generating System.
The following material will be submitted according to the petitioner:
• A comparison of avian mortality data reported by projects utilizing various solar technologies.
• A more detailed description of the benefits of the PSEGS, including the potential to incorporate thermal energy storage at the project in the future.
• A more detailed description of why the No Project Alternative and the Photovoltaic
Alternative are infeasible alternatives to the PSEGS.
• A proposed modification to a cultural mitigation measure that more appropriately provides mitigation directed towards tribal spiritual and cultural values while also providing mitigation for the State’s interest in recording historically important sites.
Hawks and Vultures Photographed Over Wind Turbines at Ocotillo
January 31, 2014 - Ocotillo CA - When strong opposition warned the Bureau of Land Management and wind companies about potential impacts to wildlife and birds in the Colorado Desert of western Imperial Valley near the town of Ocotillo, these concerns were brushed aside. But local residents have documented the near misses that continue to happen when a large wind project is placed in a migratory bird corridor. >>more
^A turkey vulture soars over a new wind turbines placed in its desert habitat next to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California (Photo by Jim Pelley).
Lack of Transparency Revealed in Federal 30-Year Eagle Take Permits for Wind Industry
January 26, 2014 - The Mojave Desert Blog has done an excellent job of discussing the closed-door negotiations between the wind industry, select environmental groups, and the Department of the Interior over controversial permits that would be issued to wind companies seeking to build wind projects in Golden and Bald eagle nesting and foraging habitat. What is troubling are the negotiations that occurred after the public comment period closed, and therefore implicating benefits to private companies over the concerns of the public concerning potential deaths of eagles from wind projects on public land. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records disclose the secret negotiations in detail.
Which Solar Project has Impacted the Most Tortoises?
January 22, 2014 - An editorial in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on January 21 by Jim Woodruff, vice president of state and local government affairs for First Solar, says the large-scale solar industry is thriving in the Southwest. There are more setbacks than Woodruff admits, but at what cost has success come at?Generally the Ivanpah solar power tower project has been seen as the most detrimental to desert tortoises and other wildlife, and there is an article in KCET's ReWire by Chris Clarke about this. But it is the Moapa K Road Project, now being built by First Solar, which bulldozes 100 percent of the habitat and has impacted the most tortoises. The Moapa Project near Overton, Nevada on reservation land is 2,000 acres and has impacted more than the Ivanpah Project on 3,800 acres. First Solar wants 5,000 more acres in Ivanpah Valley.
From page 56 of the Silver State Biological Opinion by the US Fish and Wildlife Service:
“In spring 2013, biologists translocated 108 large and 49 small desert tortoises from approximately 2,000 acres of the KRoad Moapa Solar Project on the Moapa River Indian Reservation northeast of Las Vegas; they also monitored 18 large desert tortoises as controls or residents. Extremely high temperatures during the summer may have killed two or more large translocated desert tortoises. Predators likely killed eight small translocated desert tortoises. No resident or control desert tortoises have died during monitoring .... During this first year of increased movement, desert tortoises would also be more likely to engage in fence pacing behavior, which can lead to hyperthermia and death.” (see http://www.basinandrangewatch.org/NextLightUpdates.html#BO)
Blythe Solar Project Given Final Approval by Energy Commission
Sacramento - The California Energy Commission on January 15 approved an amendment to
convert the 485-megawatt Blythe Solar Power Project from solar parabolic-trough to a solar photovoltaic plant. >>more
Overhwelming Opposition to the Soda Mountain Solar Energy Project
January 12, 2014 - Yucca Valley CA - The Bureau of Land Management held a public meeting in Yucca Valley yesterday, and about 30 people showed up, and many made comments. Representatives from applicant Bechtel were also present. Many local residents and environmental groups opposed this project because it is in the wrong place: within a mile of the Mojave National Preserve, a beloved park unit in the heart of the desert. The project also would block important desert bighorn sheep connectivity between mountain ranges. >>more
California Energy Commission Recommends License for Blythe Solar Project
December 20, 2013 - A committee inlcuding two commissioners met on December 13 to recommend approval of the Blythe Solar Power Project. Part of the decision reads:
"...the committee finds that the project, as mitigated, may have environmental impacts that are cumulatively significant when considered along with the impacts of other projects in the region. The cumulative impacts that cannot be mitigated to less than significant levels are to biological resources, cultural resources, land use, and visual resources. The committee finds that the project benefits—including its contribution to meeting California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating an estimated 499 peak construction jobs, and boosting the economy — justify an override of those impacts."
Public Meetings Announced for Soda Mountain Solar Project
UPDATE: December 20, 2013 - The Bureau of Land Management has scheduled an additional public meeting for public comment on the Soda Mountain Solar Project's draft environmental document. The meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Travelodge Inn and Suites Yucca Valley Meeting Room, 54850 29 Palms Highway, Yucca Valley.
December 15, 2013 - The Bureau of Land Management has scheduled public meetings on Jan. 8- 9, 2014 in Barstow, CA, for the photovoltaic power plant proposal next to the Mojave National Preserve along Interstate-15.
The BLM has scheduled two public meetings for public comment on the Soda Mountain Solar Project's draft environmental documents. Meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Comfort Suites, 2571 Fisher Blvd., Barstow.
Palen Solar Electric Generating System: Denied
December 13, 2013 - During a business meeting in Sacramento today the California Energy Commission recommended that the application for the Palen solar power tower project by BrightSource Energy be denied.
“We conclude, in the BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES section of this Decision, that currently there is insufficient scientifically deduced information about actual avian impacts from power tower solar flux. However, other evidence in the record about avian species mortality from solar flux, including preliminary compliance monitoring information from the Ivanpah project, convinces us that the benefits of the PSEGS modified project do not outweigh its significant adverse environmental effects. When we compare the PSEGS' entire suite of benefits against its suite of impacts, we find that the impacts outweigh the benefits. Accordingly, the Petition to Amend the Palen Solar Electricity Generating System is DENIED.”
Smithsonian Study on Bird Mortality at Wind Projects
December 10, 2013 - The wind industry has been saying that larger monopole turbines are safe for birds, primarily because they have fewer nesting opportunities than the previous lattice tower design which did result in mortality. But a new study by the Migratory Bird Center at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute finds that since these newer turbines are much taller and have a wide rotor radius, an estimated 140,000 to 328,000 birds are killed annually by collisions with monopole turbines in the contiguous U.S.
See the research at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320713003522
Administration Finalizes 30-Year Take Permits for Eagles
December 8, 2013 - On December 6 the Interior Department announced a final rule extending the length of permits that allow facilities such as wind projects to unintentionally kill protected bald and golden eagles. The previous take permits were for 5 years.
See these articles for more:
Scroll down to read tribal response to the initial 30 year take permit proposal: http://ens-newswire.com/2013/12/06/ameriscan-dec-6-2013/
Below are press statements from conservation groups in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rule change allowing 30-year eagle take permits. The final rule is on the Public Inspection desk, available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2013-29088.pdf. It will be published in the Federal Register on Monday.
American Bird Conservancy: http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/131206.html
Defenders of Wildlife: http://www.defenders.org/press-release/fish-and-wildlife-service-tests-new-program-eagles
National Audubon: http://www.audubon.org/newsroom/press-releases/2013/interior-dept-rule-greenlights-eagle-slaughter-wind-farms-says-audubon-
National Wildlife Federation: http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/News-by-Topic/Global-Warming/2013/12-06-2013-Interior-Dept-Wind-Permit-Rule-Insufficient-to-Protect-Eagles.aspx
National Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2013/131206.asp
The Protect Our Communities Foundation: http://protectourcommunities.org/2013/12/06/federal-rule-change-will-harm-eagles/
Sierra Club: http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2013/12/us-fish-and-wildlife-service-rule-harms-eagles-and-sustainable-energy
December 8, 2013 - The Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was published on November 29, 2013, for the photovoltaic project that may be as large as 359 megawatts on 4,179 acres of public land with intact Mojave Desert scrub and wash habitats.
Public Comment: Publication of the NOA initiates a public comment period open until March 3, 2014.
^Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System power tower being tested in the eastern California desert (photo: David Budlong). More photos >>here.
National Park Service Comments on the Palen Solar Power Towers
November 18, 2013 - As Joshua Tree National Park lies within view of these proposed 750-foot solar thermal towers, the National Park Service gave comments on the Palen Solar Electric Generating System project's impacts: >>download the 183 KB pdf.
Owens Valley Solar Projects
November 12, 2013 - Owens Valley Solar Ranch: this 1,200 acre project is proposed to be built next to Manzanar National Historic Site in the scenic Owens Valley next to the Inyo Mountains. The project is so unpopular that Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is holding an additional public meeting in Los Angeles on November 16th. You can oppose this project by attending the meeting or writing LADWP at: LADWP General Correspondence PO Box 51111 Los Angeles, CA 90051-0100. You can also e-mail them from their main page at:
Also see the story in the Inyo Register: http://inyoregister.com/node/5281
Defenders of Wildlife Sues Over Silver State and Stateline Solar Projects
November 12, 2013 - A big thank you to the Defenders of Wildlife for stepping up and defending the desert tortoise in Ivanpah Valley from big solar energy sprawl. The national environmental organization announced its lawsuit on it's blog today, against Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Interior Secretary over the two new solar projects slated for the Ivanpah Valley. Those are the Stateline Solar Farm and the Silver State South Solar Farm totaling about 5,000 acres.
See the Defenders of Wildlife Blog: http://www.defendersblog.org/2013/11/adding-ivanpah/
Palen Solar Project California Energy Commission Evidentiary Hearing
November 4, 2013 - Basin & Range Watch participated in the hearing in Palm Desert on October 28-29. See >>here.
Bird Mitigation Proposed for Palen Solar Power Towers
October 25, 2013 - BrightSource Energy intends to scare the birds away from the solar flux around the operating power towers for the Palen Solar Electric Generating System in several possible ways. Some measures proposed include driving ATVs around, firing shot guns and cannons, dogs will be trained to scare birds away, as well as possibly trained falcons.
Summary of Potential Avian Adoptive Management Measures by Category:
--Facility habitat and prey control.
--Perch and nest-proofing.
--Netting or other enclosures.
--Dog, raptor other animal related deterrence. This could include trained falcons to chase birds away from the project.
--Actively managed radiocontrolled aircraft, water cannons, shotgun blasts, ATVs.
--Radar and long-range focused, bio-acoustics or visual deterrence. These could include strobe, revolving and amber barricade lights; reflective Mylar tape mounted as streamers or spans; stationary or mechanical pop-up scarecrows or effigies; black, white or other colored plastic flags; reflective Mylar balloons, including balloons marked with predator “eyespots” or that include suspended kites shaped like a hawk or an eagle; laser light emitted including hand-held units, kites, and kite-hawks and other mobile predator models; stationary predator models
Extensions Announced on Deadlines Affected by the Government Shutdown
October 23, 2013 - The Bureau of Land Management announced that the Notice of Availability of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Resource Management Plan amendment for the Silver State Solar South Project, Clark County, Nevada will have an extension. The original comment period was scheduled to close on October 21; it will be extended 16 days to Noember 6, 2013. The deadline extension date for comment on the Palen Solar Power Project Environmental Impact Statement is November 14, 2013.
Biological Opinion for Silver State South and Stateline Solar Projects
October 20, 2013 - On September 30, the US Fish and Wildlife Service completed its Biological Opinion, combined for the Silver State South and Stateline solar projects in Ivanpah Valley, on either side of the California-Nevada border. The Biological Opinion gives guidelines for trying to avoid significant impacts to the Federally Threatened Mojave desert tortoise, based on review of Bureau of Land Management right-of-way grants. This is some of the best and densest tortoise habitat in the Mojave Desert, and the impacts will be large. More >>here.
First Solar to Build McCoy Solar Energy Project
October 16, 2013 - Blythe, CA - First Solar announced today it has entered into an agreement to construct the 250 megawatt McCoy Solar Energy Project in Riverside County, California, for a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC. The large-scale photovoltaic project will be located on approximately 2,300 acres of mostly public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management about 13 miles northwest of Blythe, California. Under the agreement, First Solar will provide Engineering, Procurement and Construction services, using First Solar’s cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic thin-film modules. More at BusinessWire >>here.
Bird Death Reports for Genesis Solar Energy Project
October 9, 2013 - The August compliance reports reveal numerous species of waterbirds, songbirds, and a kestrel found dead at the project site still under construction>>here.
Bird Death Reports Released for Ivanpah Solar Power Tower Project
October 1, 2013 -- Everything from roadrunners to migrating warblers have been found dead on the project since construction began >>here.
Palen Solar Electric Generating System Public Meeting in Blythe
September 25. 2013 - Our report on the Bureau of Land Management public meeting in Blythe, CA last week on the power tower project proposed by BrightSource Energy and Abengoa, >>here.
First Solar's Silver State South Solar Farm Final Environmental Impact Statement Released
September 21, 2013 - This project will destroy some of the best tortoise habitat we have seen, plus a connectivity corridor linking genetic populations. We were hoping to have the entire alluvial fan designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern but instead the solar project will be carved out of it in prime habitat.
From the Bureau of Land Management: Notice of Availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Silver State Solar South Project, Clark County, NV
“The BLM Preferred Alternative is smaller in area than other analyzed project alternatives and reduces electricity generation capacity to 250 MWs. The BLM Preferred Alternative would disturb up to 2,427 acres of Federal land entirely within the footprint of alternatives analyzed in the Draft Supplemental EIS/Proposed RMP Amendment, and thus involves no new areas of effect. The BLM Preferred Alternative also includes a 31,859-acre area for designation as an ACEC and management prescriptions that would be required for the designated ACEC.”
Solar Power Plant Proposed Next to Manzanar National Historic Site
September 21, 2013 - A proposed new photovoltaic facility in the Owens Valley of Inyo County, CA, would be too close to Manzanar National Historic Site. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power issued a notice which says that the project “may result in significant environmental impacts to air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, hydrology and water quality.” The notice goes on to say that best management practices and mitigation measures would mean less than significant impacts. The public can comment through October 18th. Public meetings will be held at 6pm at Statham Hall in Lone Pine September 24th and the Methodist Church in Bishop September 25th.
Flood Damage Update to Desert Sunlight Solar Farm and Genesis Solar Energy Project
September 17, 2013 - The Bureau of Land Management gave us this latest summary of the damage to these solar projects in Chuckwalla Valley, CA, from summer storms >>here.
How to Help Save Silurian Valley
September 15, 2013 - This wild and remote landscape in the eastern Mojave Desert of California is under threat of largescale solar and wind development. Visit the Mojave Desert Blog for more, and see our page on this area >>here.
BrightSource Energy's Palen Solar Electric Generating System Moves Ahead in Review
September 10, 2013 - The California Energy Commission released part A of its Final Staff Assessment of this large-scale power tower project in Chuckwalla Valley, CA. More >>here.
Mexican Free-tailed Bats Dying at Spring Valley Wind Project
September 9, 2013 - The wind project built a mile from a significant roosting cave for bats next to Great Basin National Park in Nevada is now killing bats during their migration, according to monitoring reports. See >>here.
TransWest Express Transmission Line Project
September 8, 2013 - Comments are due September 30 on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Bureau of Land Management and Western Area Power Administration for the 725-mile-long, 600-kilovolt, direct current (DC) transmission line from Wyoming wind projects across Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and ending south of Las Vegas on its way to deliver to California. The proposal also specifies the line would carry "other" generation -- coal or natural gas? A competing line, the Zephyr Power Transmission Project, would parallel it but BLM says only one will be approved. More >>here.
Blythe Solar Project Back from the Dead; La Cuna de Aztlán Sacred Sites Protection Circle Opposes
August 31, 2013 - Blythe CA - Local Indigenous groups make comments at public meetings and write letters of opposition for a 4,300-acre proposed photovoltaic solar project on Palo Verde Mesa near the Colorado River. The former Solar Millenium project was purchased by NextEra which wants to revive the troubled facility proposal on public land. Sacred sites abound, as well as desert habitat with ironwood trees. Story >>here.
Storm Flood Damage to Desert Sunlight Solar Farm
August 25, 2013 - Desert Center, CA. Yesterday a massive storm hit part of the Chuckwalla Valley, a rainy cell from the Tropical Storm Evo activity along the Pacific coast of Mexico streaming northwards. The photovoltaic solar project was flooded. Desert flatlands turned into a river of churning brown water according to eye-witnesses, as more than an inch of rain fell on the valley. Part of a tortoise exclusion fence was down, washed away by the flash flood. The security fence went down in places and air conditioners for the inverter boxes are smashed into each orher. Twenty power poles are down on Kaiser Road. First Solar workers could not leave until after 10 PM last night because the downed powerlines energized their security fence and nobody could leave until Edison removed the poles. This was one of the worst storms in decades here.
See aerial photos of the solar project at http://guntherportfolio.com/2013/08/first-desert-sunlight-solar/. We will be posting more recent photos of any flood damage as we get them.
The Genesis Solar Energy Project also flooded again, although not as badly as a previous flood episode, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
Dust Storm Hits Ocotillo Wind Project
August 25, 2013 - Ocotillo, CA. On August 22 a massive dust storm rolled over the town of Ocotillo and the wind project constructed there, and residents are caught in a "blackout." Scraping of desert soils may increase the probablity of dust storms such as these. See more photos >>here.
Wind Industry Bird Biologist Prosecuted
August 14, 2013 - A biologist working for the wind industry was fined 7,500 dollars and sentenced to three years probation for handling golden eagles without a permit under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. More details in the Rewire story.
Granite Wind Wind Project Withdrawn
August 2, 2013 - According to the Bureau of Land Management, the company RES withdrew their application for the Granite Wind Project located near Apple Valley, CA.
The reason is golden eagle nests that were located close to the project. A mitigation solution was not found.
Nevada Premiere of Film "Who Are My People?"
July 28, 2013 - NEVADA PREMIERE OF “WHO ARE MY PEOPLE?” SLATED FOR AUGUST 13, 7:00 PM., FLAMINGO LIBRARY MAIN STAGE AUDITORIUM.
EMMY® Award winning filmmaker Robert Lundahl takes a hard look at U.S. energy policy and its effects on desert ecosystems, Native American tribes and the communities of the West.
The Bureau of Land Management scoping meeting for the Rio Mesa Solar Plant outside Blythe, California likely caused heartburn for the BLM, applicant Brightsource Energy, and related subcontractors and agencies. Time and time again Native elders stood up to declare concerns and articulate potentially unresolvable conflicts of values, goals and process that have the potential to devastate Obama Administration hopes to build large solar across the deserts of California and the West.
In a surreal scene from the film, “Who Are My People?” holding its Nevada Premiere, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) officials flub questions, and acknowledge they can’t remember which tribes they consulted with, a requirement of the National Historic Places Act of 1966, as applicants Brightsource and Chevron seek to justify placing the 2 billion dollar Rio Mesa Solar facility on lands held sacred by the Mojave people.
Mojave elder Reverend Ron Van Fleet responds, “We said no, when is it going to get through your head, do we have to fine you for a billion dollars for violating one of our cremation sites, or 10 billion dollars… all you care about is the money, maybe 10 billion dollars you would understand.”
U.C. Riverside Botanist, James Andre, Ph.D., Director of the Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), takes it a step further. “You’ve basically done in the entire ecosystem at that scale.”
Lundahl’s film decimates the BLM, whose practices seem to be in shambles, by showing what is at stake. Giant geoglyphs, or Earth drawings, which appear in only two places on the planet (the other being Peru’s Nazca Lines), and which are thousands of years old, visible from space, and were made popular by author Erich Von Daniken in the book Chariots of the Gods, face the bulldozer.
"Who Are My People?," explores the effects of large-scale solar energy developments on Native American life and traditional landscapes, as the Obama Administration seeks to build massive energy facilities, both Solar and Wind, across the Western desert regions, “development that will forever change the character and landscape of the West across at least six states, including Nevada,” says Lundahl.
Who Are My People? delivers stunning, never seen before aerial photography of scores of such geoglyphs, outside Blythe, California, where companies like Solar Millennium, Next Era, and Solar Reserve, want to turn gold, in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars of “up front” cash grants from the ARRA stimulus program, into more gold, in the form of over 250 BLM leases in California alone, originally instigated, the film’s experts say, by investment bankers Goldman Sachs, operating as a land speculator.
Lundahl, a self-decribed environmentalist, savages the Obama Administration’s green energy policies, and the Nevada Premiere of his new film at the Flamingo Library’s beautiful, state of the art facility, is timed to coincide with opening festivities of the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas the same day, hosted by Nevada’s Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and featuring keynotes by Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell (whose department oversees the BLM), and Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz.
Ultimately it’s simple, Lundahl says, you can’t destroy things to "go green,” and that includes the traditional practices and life-ways of Native American communities who were here before the United States was even an idea, and the environment and traditional indigenous landscapes which support those communities. You can’t have ‘Green’ without social justice.”
Who Are My People? Screens Tuesday, August 13, 7:00 PM, Flamingo Library Main Auditorium, 1401 Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, Nevada. Doors open at 6:30, the film screens at 7:00 and the event concludes at 9:00 PM. Tickets are $7.50 at the door and are available in advance on-line for $7.00 at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/432635.
A conversation with the filmmaker and Native elders will take place following the screening.
Palen Solar Power Towers Still Face Sand Transport Corridor Problems
July 26, 2013 - During a California Energy Commission workshop, BrightSource Energy said it would propose placing 85,000 heliostats in two units in the Chuckwalla Valley of Riverside County, CA. One problem is that this particular design will block part of the sand transport corridor that moves west to east on blowing winds down the Chuckwalla Valley >> see more.
Fire and Problems During Testing at Ivanpah Solar Power Tower
July 13, 2013 -- Steam pipe ruptures and a small fire occurred during testing of solar power towers in Ivanpah Valley in May.
MGM Goes Solar on Rooftop in Las Vegas
July 3, 2013 - Las Vegas, NV - MGM Resorts International announced it will build a large photovoltaic rooftop array covering 20 acres of the convention center of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino complex. The 6.2 megawatt solar system would destroy no desert tortoise habitat but generate electricity right at the source in the heart of Las Vegas. We congratulate MGM Resorts for taking the initiative to truly implement "smart solar," in the built environment of a major city. No long transmission lines or bulldozing of Mojave yuccas will be needed.
“This will be one of the largest continuous, rooftop photovoltaic arrays in the world,” Chuck Bowling, president and CEO of Mandalay Bay stated. “It’s the second-largest rooftop array in the U.S.”
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell were present for the announcement.
NRG (owner of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System power towers under construction in the desert south of Las Vegas) will build and own the privately funded array, and Mandalay Bay will buy power from it in a power purchase agreement. Thumbs up to MGM and NRG.
See story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Endangered Yuma Clapper Rail Found Dead at Desert Sunlight Solar Farm
July 1, 2013 - Riverside County, CA. The waterbird may have mistaken the photovoltaic solar array for a lake and died as it flew between marshes trying to land in an arid desert facility. Federal agencies are working to find ways to minimize future mortality of this rare bird. More >>here.
Massive Mohave Wind Project Approved in Arizona
June 28, 2013 - The Interior Department approved a 38,000 acre wind farm in Northwestern Arizona in the range of reintroduced California Condors and dozens of golden eagle nests. British Petroleum will build the Mohave County Wind Farm. The same company that soaked tens of thousands of birds in oil in the Gulf will now find another way to reduce our avian populations. But there is no power purchase agreement for this wind farm and no takers for the power yet.
See the Department of Interior press release:
Calico Solar Project Canceled by K Road
June 21, 2013 - One of the original Fast-tracked solar projects, east of Barstow CA, has been pulled by the company K Road. They still have an approved project at the Moapa Piute Reservation in Nevada. >>here.
Laughlin, Nevada, ENN Solar Project Dead
June 14, 2013 - The Chinese company that bought land near the southern Nevada city of Laughlin along the Colroado River pulled its project plans. Story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Palen Solar Project Status Report
June 11, 2013 - Thanks to Chris Clarke at KCET ReWire for this summary of the latest meeting with the California Energy Commission on BrightSource Energy's Palen Solar Electric Generating System project >>here.
BrightSource Energy CEO Steps Down
June 6, 2013 - John Woolard, CEO for the past seven years at the solar thermal company famous for its Ivanpah power tower project, is moving on. The BrightSource blog explained: "As we actively pursue international markets, we will continue to align with partners to emphasize our role as a provider of best-in-class technology and related services into projects that are developed, financed and owned by others." See the Silicon Valley MercuryNews.com.
California Condor and Alta East Wind Project Precedent Set
June 1, 2013 - The federal government has allowed a wind project to accidentally kill one condor under permit, setting a precedent for recovery of this rare and iconic bird >>here.
Blade Throw at Ocotillo Wind Project
May 17, 2013 - A 10-ton turbine blade broke off a wind turbine generator at the Ocotillo, CA wind project yesterday. Photos >>here.
Condors Left Unprotected
May 11, 2013 - The Obama Administration’s poor conservation legacy continues. US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that wind projects will not be prosecuted for accidental "take" of endangered California condors if they are killed by giant wind turbine blades in projects springing up in their ancestral mountain homelands. Specifically the Terra-Gen wind project in the Tehachapi Mountains of Kern County, CA. Condors have just barely started to have success increasing populations after a long captive breeding program and years in the 1980s and 1990s when no condors were flying freely in the wild. Lead bullets continue to lead to condor deaths, and the species is still in danger of decline after re-introductions back into historic ranges.
"This is the first time we've authorized incidental takes of California condors — and we're approaching them very cautiously," said Fish and Wildlife Director Daniel Ashe.
Herbicide Use to be Approved Near Local Community
May 11, 2013 - On May 2nd, the Bureau of Land Management released an environmental assessment with only a two week comment period reviewing the impacts of treating the invasive weeds around the Ocotillo Wind Express Project with herbicides, in Imperial County CA.
The Bureau of Land Management approved the Ocotillo Wind Express Project which is being built within a 1/4 mile of local residents of the town of Ocotillo. Now the BLM is going to authorize the use of the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) made by Monsanto, to control the spread of invasive weeds that are being spread by the disturbance caused by the Pattern Energy wind project. The safety and well being of local residents is not a priority to BLM. The local people of Ocotillo have been forced to put up with noise, failed dust mitigation, bright, unnecessary night lighting, Pattern Energy employees who threaten them, and now exposure to dangerous herbicides.
In lab tests, glyphosate and herbicides containing glyphosate caused genetic damage to human and animal cells. Studies of farmers and other people exposed to glyphosate herbicides link this exposure to increased risks of cancer, miscarriages and attention deficit disorder. Additional laboratory tests have confirmed the results of these studies. Application of glyphosate herbicides increases the severity of a variety of plant diseases.
See the Environmental Assessment pdf >>here.
The BLM released a plan to treat over 700 acres of land with herbicides including Glyphosphate (Roundup) to control the weeds spread from the large land disturbance from the Ocotillo Wind Express Project. Roundup can bea dangerous herbicide. It can leak into groundwater and cause human health problems. Some of the disturbance is located within less than a quarter mile of local residents.
Symptoms of exposure to glyphosate include eye irritation, blurred vision, skin rashes, burning or itchy skin, nausea, sore throat and difficulty breathing, headache, lethargy, nose bleeds and dizziness.
In lab tests, glyphosate and herbicides containing glyphosate caused genetic damage to human and animal cells. Studies of farmers and other people exposed to glyphosate herbicides link this exposure to increased risks of cancer, miscarriages and attention deficit disorder. Glyphosate herbicides cause genetic damage and harm to the immune system in fish. In frogs, glyphosate herbicides cause genetic damage and abnormal development.
In the interest of public health, I would like to request that the BLM extend the two week comment period to 30 days and reconsider a “Physical Removal Only” alternative.
Valley Fever Outbreak in Carrizo Plain Solar Projects
May 1, 2013 - The Los Angeles Times reported that 28 people, including construction workers, have been diagnosed with Valley Fever on two large solar power construction sites in Carrizo Plain in San Luis Obispo County, California. (See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-solar-fever-20130501,0,7994390,print.story).
Basin & Range Watch Joins in Lawsuit
April 19, 2013 - Joining the grassroots group Friends of Searchlight Desert and Mountains, as well as three individuals who live in the area, a lawsuit has been filed seeking better environmental analysis of the Searchlight Wind Energy Project >>here.
BrightSource Suspends Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System Project
April 3, 2013 - Following a similar suspension of their Rio Mesa project near Blythe CA, BrightSource Energy sent a notice today to the California Energy Commission saying there is a need to suspend their application for certification indefinitely. The Oakland-based company said it did not want to withdraw the application but only delay it for an unspecified amount of time. >>more
Three Giant Solar and Wind Projects Approved on Public Land
March 17, 2013 - On March 13 Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced the approval of McCoy Solar Energy Project (750 megawatts), Desert Harvest Solar Farm (150 MW), and Searchlight Wind Energy Project (200 MW). McCoy solar is a project by NextEra Energy, in Riverside County near Blythe CA, Desert Harvest is an EDF Renewable Energy (formerly enXco) project in Riverside County near Desert Center CA, and the Searchlight wind project is by Duke Energy in Clark County, NV. Secretary Salazar made the announcement in San Francisco with California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Golden Eagle Killed by Spring Valley Wind Project
March 8, 2013 - Already a dead Golden eagle was found on February 25 at a wind turbine generator in the Spring Valley, a place with a dense population of eagles. Those who knew thae area had predicted eagle mortality was likely, but no one thought it would be so soon after the project was completed.
According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Pattern Energy contacted US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as required and preserved the carcass for them. FWS has confirmed it was a strike that killed the eagle.
The golden eagle death triggered a requirement that the company survey all 66 turbines in the next survey period.
Because the death was at the start of the nesting season the company may need to move up their surveys for nests and do some analysis to determine if the eagle killed was resident and part of a nesting pair, or a transient.
BLM says that the project has now “reached but not exceeded” the take threshold for golden eagle of one take. If they get another take this may trigger curtailment and other measures.
February 28, 2013 - The below photo was taken of Unit 1 of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the late morning of February 23rd, 2013. Winds were gusting between 20 and 25 miles per hour. The photo shows that the large clearings for this project are a source for dust emissions in Ivanpah Valley, California and Nevada. In spite of required mitigation conditions by the Bureau of Land Management and the California Energy Commission, fugitive dust is still a big problem for the Ivanpah Project.
February 12, 2013 - Public Land Activists Sue Interior Department on Plan to Keep Millions of Acres Open for Industrial Solar Development.
Western Lands Project, Desert Protective Council, and Western Watersheds Project cited the government’s failure to consider alternatives that would focus solar development on degraded lands and in the already-built environment. The government’s analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) ignored alternative approaches that would be less damaging to the environment, more efficient, and less costly to taxpayers and ratepayers.
“The Administration is opting to needlessly turn multiple-use public lands into permanent industrial zones.” said Janine Blaeloch of the Seattle-based Western Lands Project. “Solar development belongs on rooftops, parking lots, already-developed areas, and on degraded sites, not our public lands."
The complaint can be viewed at http: //www.scribd.com/doc/125184283/PEIS-Final-Complaint
January 24, 2013 - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that Interior has designated 192,100 acres of public land across Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development. The publication of the Record of Decision (ROD) for this initiative, known as the Restoration Design Energy Project, caps a three-year, statewide environmental analysis of disturbed land and other areas with few known resource conflicts that could accommodate commercial renewable energy projects.
The ROD also establishes the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone, the third solar zone on public lands in Arizona and the 18th nationwide. The new 2,550-acre Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone is located in Yuma County near Dateland. Although the Restoration Design Energy Project mostly locates large-scale renewable energy projects on disturbed and degraded land, this new SEZ has rich desert washes and some of the area is Sonoran Desert Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) habitat. The new SEZ is located near the present First Solar Agua Caliente Solar Project (photo below).
January 13, 1013 -Abengoa has filed an application under Pahrump Valley Solar LLC to build a 135 megawatt solar power tower plus a 90 MW photovoltaic project in Nevada east of the Hidden Hills power towers in Pahrump Valley. This will requite 180 acre feet of water. The location is just north of Tecopa Road, but precariously close to Stump Springs Area of Critical Environmental Concern. The power tower would be 650 feet tall, although other reports say 1,000 feet.
January 13, 2013 - The Black Lava Butte wind project in San Bernardino County, CA, north of Joshua Tree National Park, has been canceled by Element Power. The company cited poor wind resources. Residents of the area near Pioneertown are jubilant since massive steel towers would have loomed over homes, and fragmented beautiful high desert mesas and hills.
See Mojave Desert Blog: http://www.mojavedesertblog.com/2013/01/black-lava-butte-may-be-spared-from.html
January 2, 2013 - Now that the House and Senate passed their 11th-hour legislation to avert the fiscal cliff and President Obama says he will sign it into law, it's time to take a look at what this means for renewable energy development in the deserts. Packed into the bill was a one-year extension of the wind production tax credit of $0.022 per kilowatt-hour to the electricity wind projects generate over the first ten years of their production service. To qualify, wind projects must be “under construction” by the end of 2013. The extension actually weakens the definition of "under construction" to mean as little as an access road or other meager measures. Previously wind projects needed to be completed to receive the tax credit by the deadline of the end of 2012.
We expect to see more wind projects go ahead in 2013 in vital desert ecosystems and too close to rural communities because of this. These could include:
1. Silurian Valley Wind Farm north of Baker, CA and visible from the Mojave National Preserve.
2. Castle Mountains/Oak Creek Wind Farm surrounding the east side of the Mojave National Preserve, east of Nipton, CA.
3. The Black Lava Buttes/Pipes Canyon wind farm by Yucca Valley, CA.
4. The Tule Wind Farm in San Diego County, CA and a bunch of applications in Imperial County all seeking a place on the Sunrise Powerlink.
5. Wasatch Wind surrounding the south side of Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada and Utah.
6. Mohave County Wind Farm in northwest Arizona.
7. Granite Wind near Apple Valley, CA.
8. The Searchlight Wind Project next to Lake Mead, NV.
December 26, 2012 - SolarReserve Chief Executive Officer Kevin Smith defended his company’s use of tax rebates as essential to landing a competitive contract to supply power to NV Energy.
He was responding to complaints by Nye County Commissioner Butch Borasky at a Dec. 4 meeting about the company’s request to the State Energy Office for a 55 percent property tax abatement over 20 years. The abatements were provided under Assembly Bill 522, passed in the 2009 session of the Nevada Legislature.
See the Pahrump Valley Times article.
December 23, 2012 - The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Quartzite Solar Energy Project was released in part by the lead aganecies -- Department of Energy and Western Area Power Administration -- along with Bureau of Land Management as a cooperating agency. The 100 megawatt power tower project would destroy 51 acres of sand habitat for the rare Arizona populations of the Mojave fringe-toed lizard (Uma scoparia), as well as impact the sand transport system of the area. 1,675 acres would be impacted. The project is a proposal by Solar Reserve north of Quartzite, Arizona.
See the announcement and part of the document here:
December 21, 2012 - The California Energy Commission staff today released the final environmental analysis -- the Final Staff Assessment (FSA) -- for the licensing of the proposed Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System.
The Energy Commission "concluded that the proposed 500-megawatt (MW) solar thermal power project would have significant environmental impacts in the areas of biological resources, cultural resources, land use, and visual resources even with the implementation of staff's recommended mitigation measures. Impacts in the other technical areas are less than significant or can be mitigated to levels that are less than significant."
Unmitigated environmental impacts and non-compliance with applicable laws and regulations would require the Commission to adopt override findings if the project is approved.
The FSA is available at: http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/hiddenhills/documents/index.html
December 20, 2012 - The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the McCoy Solar Energy Project near Blythe, California has been released. The project is promised to produce 750 megawatts of energy, but developer NextEra only has a Power Purchase Agreement for 250 megawatt first phase of the project. We have heard internal skepticism from the Interior Department that any second phase will be built making their promise of 600 jobs questionable. The FEIS can be downloaded >>here. See the Basin and Range Watch page >>here.
December 18, 2012 - California state and federal agencies released an interim document on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) .
Renewable energy impacts could lead to the destruction of between 200,000 to 350,000 acres of the California desert under this proposed plan.
Input can be provided through the DRECP website at www.drecp.org and will be accepted throughout the DRECP planning process. Members of the public can also sign up on the website to receive updates on the plan via the DRECP listserve. To be most useful and fully considered prior to publication of the Draft EIS/EIR, input on the interim document should be submitted by January 23, 2013.
The interim document and a fact sheet about it can be found at http://www.drecp.org/documents/
December 17, 2012 - In 2011 a member of the public staked a mining claim on the Silver State South Solar Project and it really slowed down the fast-track review process. This announcement formalizes the process where mining claims are now no longer going to be allowed to interfere with the Solar Energy Zones reviwed in the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.
“SUMMARY: The Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management and Budget has approved an amendment to a previously filed application to withdraw public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah from settlement, sale, location, and
entry under the public land laws, including the United States mining laws, on behalf of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to protect and preserve Solar Energy Zones (SEZ) for future solar energy development.”
December 14, 2012 - Searchlight Wind Energy Project: The Final Environmental Impact Statement has been released by the Bureau of Land Management. This will kill golden eagles, bald eagles and several other migratory Colorado River bird species. It will disturb a high density desert tortoise habitat and the view will be ruined from Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Mojave National Preserve and several wilderness areas. >>here
November 30, 2012 - The Interior Department just made another 19,000 acres of public land available for energy sprawl in Imperial County, California.
Final Environmental Impact Statement for the West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation Area, Imperial County, CA
“The Final EIS/Proposed Plan Amendment analyzes the potential environmental impacts of making available approximately 18,765 acres of BLM-managed surface lands in the West Chocolate Mountains REEA for testing and developing solar and wind energy facilities and for leasing approximately 20,027 acres of Federal mineral estate near Niland, California, for geothermal energy testing and development.”
November 28, 2012 - Ivanpah Solar Electric Generation System: BrightSource Energy seeks the use of a state mitigation bank for ephemeral wash compensation >>here.
November 22, 2012 - First Solar is pushing ahead with its Stateline Solar Farm Project in Ivanpah Valley CA right next to BrightSource's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System under construction. Previously translocated desert tortoises will have to be dug up a second time and moved, but they are running out of room to move them to. See >>here.
November 20, 2012 - Solar Reserve is planning a new power tower concentrated solar project near Gila Bend, Maricopa County, Arizona. The Crossroads Solar Energy Project would be 150 megawatts and incorporate molten salt storage technology. The site is private agricultural land but the company has no buyer yet for the power. Solar Reserve is seeking utilities in either Arizona or California to sell the power to. Water might be an issue in an area that has seen major agricultural groundwater pumping that has impacted the nearby Gila River. Bird mortality issues could also arise with the Gila River riparian corridor nearby. See the Sacramento Bee.
November 9, 2012 - Some Arizona news: The Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP) is a Bureau of Land Management Arizona initiative to identify lands across the State that may be suitable for the development of renewable energy. The Environmental Impact Statement proposes establishing 192,100 acres of renewable energy development areas (REDA) on BLM land throughout Arizona. The proposed REDAs are near transmission lines or designated corridors, close to population centers or industrial areas, and in areas where impacts on water usage would be moderate. These lands also have few known resource impacts or have been previously disturbed, such as retired agriculture properties. REDAs would be used for solar or wind energy development. See the BLM web page >>here.
Also, the BLM is proposing a new 2,550-acre Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) to be included in the agencies larger 6-state solar development plan approved by Salazar earlier this year in the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. See the good summary of this on the Renewable Communities Alliance blog.
November 6, 2012 - The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the 1,200 acre Desert Harvest Solar Project near Joshua Tree National Park can be viewed here. There will be 30 days to protest the decision to approve this project.
See the BLM web page >>here
October 29, 2012 - The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Stateline Solar Project in Ivanpah Valley, CA will be coming out in about two weeks, according to Department of Interior officials we talked to. This will add to the cumulative impacts to the tortoise-rich valley in addition to the Silver State South solar project also in review.
October 26, 2012 - Yesterday the the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously approved two amended BrightSource contracts with Southern California Edison (SCE): one tower (and not two as BrightSource had proposed) for their Rio Mesa project, and one tower for their Sonora West proposed project. Both projects are south of Blythe, CA. The Sonora West project would use molten salt storage tanks. The CPUC denied SCE's contracts for the three other projects: the second 200 megawatt (MW) project at Rio Mesa and two 200 MW projects at the proposed Siberia site which BrightSource has in its pipeline in the Mojave Desert of CA. See Reuters, Mojave Desert Blog, and KCET's ReWire.
October 20, 2012 - Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility: Our comments on the project site's fossil resources, ironwood forests, flood potential, and other issues. Giant Ice Age tortoises larger than Galapagos tortoises once inhabited the Colorado River deserts along with mammoths. Will large-scale solar projects destroy these finds? >>here
October 15, 2012 - The Bureau of Land Management released the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Silver State Solar South project in Clark County, Nevada. The proposal lies on a large alluvial fan that is excellent Desert tortoise habitat, and Basin & Range Watch nominated the area as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Stay tuned, we will be commenting on this review soon.
View the BLM web page >>here
October 12, 2012 - Secretary Ken Salazar of the Department of Interior today signed the Record of Decision approving the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. He is in Las Vegas, accompanied by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Nevada Bureau of Land Management State Director Amy Lueders, and the President of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas Neal Smatresk. See announcement >>here. See our statement >>here.
Read more at the Department of Interior website >>here
October 9, 2012 - The Department of Interior announced today that it has reached its goal of approving 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy projects on public lands. The goal was met with approval of the 3,000 MW Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project complex in Wyoming. The goal originated from the Energy Policy Act 2005 (EPAct), Title II, Section 211, which sets forth the “sense of Congress” that the Secretary of the Interior should seek to have approved non-hydropower renewable energy projects on the public lands with a generation capacity of at least 10,000 MW by 2015.
July 31, 2012 - Massive flood damages Genesis Solar Energy Project, causes millions of dollars" worth of destruction to solar thermal plant under construction in Riverside County, CA >>here.
July 24, 2012 - The Department of the Interior and Department of Energy released their joint Final Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement today. It proposes to have 284,918 acres of public land open as Solar Energy Zones, but as much as 19,312,506 acres in a Solar Energy Development Program alternative which would include the Solar Energy Zones plus millions of acres of land outside of those zones. Our quick run-down >>here, and good summary by Mojave Desert Blog.
June 25, 2012 - The Inspector General’s Office report blasts the Bureau of Land Management for failure to collect rent and monitor compliance an several renewable energy projects. See the report >>here
June 16, 2012
Wind Museum holds ribbon cutting
The Tehachapi Wind Museum and the Bureau of Land Management are putting up educational panels next to the Pacific Crest Trail. Perhaps this way you will not think the turbines in view of the wilderness trail are ugly. If the BLM is doing this, it will be considered mitigation for the impacts to the Pacific Crest Trail. Don't you feel better now? Can you say Green Wash?
The Tehachapi Wind Museum's new exhibit is along the Pacific Crest Trail at "the only site on the trail through an active wind generation area." The exhibit's three interpretive trail panels at the southern trailhead are titled: "Pioneers of the Wind," "Wind Development: Why Tehachapi Pass?" and "The Pacific Crest Trail: Hike a Mile or Two Thousand." The panels offer information both on the history of wind power, and on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and were designed by the BLM's Josh Hammari.
McCoy Solar Project Public Meetings
Bureau of Land Management Announces Public Meetings for the Proposed McCoy Solar Energy Project Near Blythe.
^Young ram Desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni), southern Nevada.
Former 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
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
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
All Renewable Energy Issues >>here