The Blythe Solar Power project proposed by Solar Millennium was approved by the California Energy Commission (CEC), according to the Presiding Member's Proposed Decision. The release of the Proposed Decision starts a 30-day comment period, but the decision is likely final. The Blythe Solar power project is located in the Colorado Desert near the California town of Blythe, and is slated to provide 1,000MW of energy. It will also involve paving 6,958 acres of desert habitat on public land. Solar Millennium will be required to mitigate for the damage to desert tortoise habitat and preserve 6,958 of tortoise habitat elsewhere in the Colorado Desert, which could cost nearly $14,000,000. That will be in addition to other mitigation costs for impacts on State waters, bighorn sheep, and threatened Mojave Fringe-toed lizard.
The habitat quality on the propose Blythe Solar site was deemed to be of lesser quality than other large solar power projects--such as the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System in the Eastern Mojave Desert--but the size of the project will have a significant impact on the health of the desert ecology in the area. As I noted in a previous post on mitigation costs that energy companies are confronting, companies that chose ideal desert habitat for their projects will pay the price. Solar Millennium's $14,000,000 mitigation costs could have been much lower had they chosen a site on fallow agricultural land.
Utility-scale solar energy demands way too much habitat destruction, making "green energy" a misleading term, especially when there are smarter ways to implement renewable energy. Unfortunately, political pressure has fast-tracked poor decision-making in the private sector and in the government, leading to the approval of solar energy projects that are unnecessarily robbing us of biodiversity and beautiful open space.