Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Preliminary Environmental Data for Pisgah Solar Project
You can review preliminary data submitted by Stirling Energy Systems (SES) for its application to build a solar power plant just west of Pisgah, CA along the I-40 and Route 66. The PDF file is listed under "Applicant's Documents" on this California Energy Commission site. Some of the land requested from BLM may have been donated to BLM by the Wildlands Conservancy (former "Catellus" lands). This begs the question, can the Federal Government properly steward land intended for conservation, which presumably was the intent of the Wildlands Conservancy's acquisition and donation.
What I do like about the site is that it's located relatively close to disturbed agricultural land and probably will not impact some of the Mojave's more impressive view sheds. This makes the project more agreeable, especially when compared to the impact of the Ivanpah site in the Eastern Mojave. That said, it will be interesting to see the full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this Pisgah site, which is scheduled to be released early next year.
According to the preliminary biological study funded by the applicant, however, there are Desert Tortoises, Mojave Fringe-Toed Lizard, and Loggerhead Shrike active on the proposed site. Because the Fringe-Toed Lizard's preferred habitat is so unique (sandy areas, particularly in the vicinity of lava formations), BLM and CEC should study and consider how much of this habitat can be devoted to energy projects while still setting aside enough to protect and rehabilitate the endangered specie's population. As for the Desert Tortoise, these populations can be relocated but this begs two significant considerations: 1.) Relocations have historically resulted in the loss of many tortoises, and 2.) Can the tortoise population recover and grow if we continue to sell away its habitat and relocate more tortoises to the dwindling remaining suitable habitat? It seems that the BLM's decision to relocate tortoises carries an implicit acceptance that the tortoises' potential for recovery can be capped, although I'm not aware of any studies that have taken into account the macro demands on suitable habitat and the overall population that remaining habitat can ultimately support.