Saturday, April 17, 2010

Palen Solar Power Project Environmental Impact Summary

Once again I'll stray from the namesake of the blog and address an industrial project proposed for the Colorado Desert (a subzone of the Sonoran Desert).  Since the recent gold rush of solar projects will have impacts that affect species that roam to and from the Mojave Desert and neighboring Colorado Desert, I've been tracking projects throughout southern California.

The Palen Solar Power Project proposed for the Chuckwalla Valley in California would have significant impacts on the Mojave fringe-toed lizard.  Basin and Range Watch actually has an excellent summary of the most important points to take away from the EIS, and you can check it out at this link to their site.  As noted in the California Energy Commission (CEC) report, and summarized by Basin and Range Watch, the transport of sand through the valley would be impeded by the project if it is built as proposed.  This would affect approximately 1,400 acres of sand dune habitat downwind from the site.  This is significant because the sand dune ecosystem that is sustained by the movement of sand across the desert supports the Mojave fringe-toed lizard, which is an endangered species.   In addition to disrupting sand flows and ephemeral washes, the project would directly disturb nearly 1,700 acres of Mojave fringe-toed habitat.  At least two special status plant species have also been observed on the site during surveys in 2009 -- the Ribbed Cryptantha and Harwoods milk-vetch.

It seems clear from the environmental impact assessment that the staff prefers the reduced acreage alternative, which would be 1,800 acres smaller than the original proposal.   The reduced acreage alternative layout would preserve the central wash in the site, significantly reducing impacts on Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat, desert tortoise habitat, and dry woodland wash ecosystem.   The wash also serves as an important wildlife corridor in the area.    

The Palen Solar Power Project is proposed by Solar Millenium LLC, which is also responsible for the proposed Ridgecrest Solar Power Project.

Below screenshot depicts the proposed project site (from the CEC Project Description, CEC website):

1 comment:

  1. I have an already disturbed area that Solar Millenium LLC could develop, my home's south facing rooftop. What an alternative, no environmental impact to our undisturbed desert, excellent infrastructure in place and a very low lease rate.

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