Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project Cancelled

Update: Solar Millennium LLC has since revived its proposal to destroy 6 square miles of public land, as of 24 March 2011.

Ending a stubborn and costly effort to destroy public lands in the name of profit, Solar Millennium finally canceled its proposal to build the Ridgecrest Solar power project in the Western Mojave Desert.   The company planned to bulldoze over 6 square miles of desert, but the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff warned the company about its intention not to approve the project.  The site is located on a Mohave Ground Squirrel connectivity corridor that links different populations of the animal, which the US Fish and Wildlife Service may list under the Endangered Species Act.  The site also hosts at least 40 endangered desert tortoises, and local residents expressed concerns about the project's overdraft of scarce groundwater resources.

The CEC's review of the Ridgecrest Solar power project was put on hold in July 2010 after the CEC initially expressed concern.  Solar Millennium then embarked on a plan to study Mohave Ground Squirrel linkages in the area, probably hoping to find a site configuration that would alleviate concerns and allow it to build the project.  However, the CEC expressed continued concern with Solar Millennium's choice of the site, since any industrial development in the area would have significant impacts on the ecological health of an area that inter-agency planning efforts identified as a high priority for conservation.

A photo from the CEC Staff analysis document showing the proposed site of the Ridgecrest solar power project.
A graphic representation of what the site would look like with the solar project.  Screenshot from the CEC staff assessment .
In 2009, Solar Millennium applied to use the site--which is public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management--and hoped to receive taxpayer-backed financing or grants to cover development costs.   After an environmental impact review, the CEC staff concluded that the Ridgecrest Solar Power project would incur damages to the Mojave Desert that could not be recovered or compensated through mitigation.

Solar Millennium is also developing two other massive solar facilities in California's desert that received approval from the CEC -- the Blythe Solar and Palen Solar power projects, which will damage over 22 square miles of desert habitat and cultural sites.  The Department of the Interior's approval of the Blythe Solar power project was challenged in a lawsuit filed in late December.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely fantastic news Shaun!

    Thanks for this and the right on analysis.

    By the way, Senor Tortuga, formerly hailing from Ivanpah, called me to tell me to check out your article.

    He called from an undisclosed location, citing concerns that BrightSource biologists were hot on his trail.

    First rate article as usual!

    ReplyDelete