Preliminary surveys of the proposed site for the Ridgecrest Solar Power Project in the western Mojave Desert indicate it is currently home to several sensitive species, even though it is not far from the outskirts of Ridgecrest. The proposed facility would disturb roughly 2,000 acres, and would be situated on a site already crossed by some dirt roads, and adjacent to Highway 395. During surveys in 2009, however, biologists spotted approximately 50 desert tortoise, including 40 in the proposed disturbance area, and four active Kit fox burrows were also found. An active burrow for an American Badger was discovered within the project buffer zone, and four primary burrows for the Western burrowing owl were found within the proposed disturbance area.
Although the endangered Mojave ground squirrel was not spotted during the surveys, biologists judged that there is a high likelihood that the squirrels occur on the site because of high quality habitat in the area, and the existence of Mojave ground squirrel within five miles of the site. Le Conte's thrasher and Loggerhead shrike were also present in the proposed site.
The Ridgecrest Solar Power Project would be composed of two solar fields--approximately 755 and 685 acres respectively--and power output would be 250MW. The project would use dry-cooling technology. Basin and Range Watch and the Western Watersheds Project have been granted a petition to intervene as of mid-February 2010.
The high number of desert tortoises already discovered in preliminary surveys and the likely presence of Mojave ground squirrel and Kit fox will likely translate into high mitigation costs and complicated translocation programs. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be published on 26 March 2010, although it seems that in order to propose robust and accurate mitigation procedures, more fidelity on the site's biological resources will be necessary.
View Ridgecrest Solar Power Project in a larger map