- Both count as "renewable energy"
- They will both require costly and destructive transmission lines
- They drive endangered species closer to extinction and upset the health of entire ecosystems
Happy New Year.
|Desert tortoise photographed on the Calico Solar power project site. Photo from the Department of the Interior biological review documents.|
|Photo of the Calico Solar site from BLM EIS documents.|
"...approval of the Ivanpah Project will result in the intentional excavation, disposal, or other removal of Native American cultural items (including human remains) known to be or strongly suspected of being on the site of the Project without compliance with the conditions necessary for excavation, disposal, or other removal."The Department of the Interior likely placed immense pressure on local field offices to conduct the review expeditiously, since President Obama touted solar energy and American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grants and loans for the projects as part of his energy agenda. Although renewable energy is necessary in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Department of the Interior's interest in quickly generating renewable energy success stories unfortunately dovetailed with poor siting decisions by energy companies over the past two years. Rather than the careful placement of renewable energy on already-disturbed land or in population centers, energy companies rushed to submit applications for public land totaling well over 500 square miles in California alone, without concern for the ecological or cultural value of the proposed sites.
Through the memorandum of understanding and "fast track" list, the Department of the Interior created a new policy to meet Federal objectives that had not been completely reviewed under the Solar Energy Programmatic EIS, for which a draft was only recently released. The "fast track" list and agreement with California set the stage for landscape-scale environmental and cultural damage that was not fully addressed before implementing the new policies. Failure of the Department to complete a programmatic EIS aside, the Department's policies showed deference to energy companies in the individual reviews of each of the solar projects, and the historical and environmental review process simply became an arbitrary box to be checked before the government approved the handover of public land.“Place a high priority on processing applications for solar development in any areas ultimately identified as solar energy zones through the Solar Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Solar PEIS) and renewable energy zones identified in the DRECP and in the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI).”
|A photo of the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System site before construction. The lawsuit asserts that the Department of the Interior's review of BrightSource Energy's application for the site ignored concerns about the presence of Native American remains there.|
|A map from the Bureau of Land Management's biological survey results depicts live tortoises (green stars), and tortoise burrows (red and green triangles) observed in the vicinity of First Solar's proposed Stateline solar power project.|
|The initial bulldozing (pictured above) for nearby BrightSource Energy's project has already displaced over 50 tortoises in the Ivanpah Valley. Dozens more are likely to be encountered in future phases of construction, contributing to the decline of an otherwise healthy tortoise population.|
|Pink Funnel Lily, which is particularly abundant on First Solar's proposed site. Photo: Mr. James Andre.|
|First Solar plans to bulldoze the site and install photovoltaic solar panels, like the ones pictured above. The same panels can be installed on rooftops, over parking lots, or on already disturbed-land. Photo from BLM Plan of Development|
|The creosote scrub and washes on the proposed Calico Solar site provide foraging habitat for desert tortoises and bighorn sheep, while sand dunes in the lower portion of the site host threatened Mojave fringe-toed lizards.|
|Desert Tortoise on the Desert Sunlight project site. Photo: BLM Draft EIS|
"BLM's invitation to "consult," then, amounted to little more than a general request for the Tribe to gathers its own information about all sites within the area and disclose it at public meetings. Because of the lack of information, it was impossible for the Tribe to have been consulted meaningfully as required in applicable regulations. The documentary evidence also discloses almost no "government-to-government" consultations. While public informational meetings, consultations with individual tribal members, meetings with government staff or contracted investigators, and written updates are obviously a helpful and necessary part of the process, they don't amount to the "government-to-government" consultation contemplated by the regulations."The decision is the first legal strike against the Department of the Interior's "fast track" approval process for renewable energy, which concerned citizens believe rushed the environmental review process and reflected political momentum behind industrial-scale solar energy more than a careful examination of the impacts of proposed projects. Part of the first wave of massive solar proposals in California's desert, Tessera Solar LLC selected the Imperial site apparently without regard for its ecological and cultural significance, and the Department of the Interior hastily approved the project in October in order to meet Washington's goal to build 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy on public land.
|Photo from Basin and Range Watch|
|Photo from Basin and Range Watch website|
|The Governor's motorcade drives past protesters after he celebrated the groundbreaking for BrightSource Energy's 5.6 square miles solar facility in the Ivanpah Valley, which has already displaced over 40 desert tortoises.|
|Notice how the sunlight looks the same in this picture as it does in your backyard? Apparently California did not notice, and has to build $1 billion dollar transmission lines to bring it to your house. For the same money, we could get a lot more solar panels built in our cities and on our rooftops. Photo courtesy of Basin and Range Watch.|
|Protesters rally against Governor Schwarzenegger's approval of the Sunrise Powerlink, and call for distributed generation, also known as "rooftop solar."|
|The Sunrise Powerlink will cross over miles of undisturbed wilderness, like the hills pictured here.|
|Map of projects proposed for the Ivanpah Valley from the Basin and Range Watch website.|
|Part of the desert currently being bulldozed for the ISEGS project. First Solar's Stateline project would be built immediately beyond the hills in the background.|
|The orange shading depicts the 737 square miles of surrounding open desert from which the Rice Solar power project will be visible. Map from CEC Draft EIS.|
|Similar receiver towers operating in Spain, although these examples exist near the built environment and not land valued for its wilderness qualities.|