Basin and Range Watch posted a review of the proposed desert tortoise habitat mitigation plan being considered by BrightSource Energy LLC. The company's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System is being built on 5.6 square miles of public land, and has already displaced as many as 50 endangered desert tortoises. As part of it's agreement allowing the company to bulldoze and operate on public land, the company must purchase several thousand acres of privately held desert as mitigation -- the land must serve as good quality desert tortoise habitat and habitat for other special status species affected by the massive solar project.
The mitigation land under consideration near the Castle Peaks in the northeastern Mojave Desert is mostly at an elevation higher than 4,000 feet, which is above the average range of the desert tortoise. The proposed site also does not host many of the rare plants that will be destroyed by the Ivanpah solar project
Desert experts have raised serious doubt over the ability of solar energy companies to acquire a sufficient amount of private land that can serve as compensatory mitigation. BrightSource Energy's consideration of the Castle Peak's land is indicative of this problem, which is the result of false assumptions that were not adequately examined during Federal and State environmental review processes. Western Watersheds Project filed a legal challenge against the Federal government for essentially giving BrightSource Energy a free pass during the review, failing to adequately consider the cumulative impacts of the project and segmenting its review of the solar project and a transmission line that would be required for the power plant to become functional.
Meanwhile, the Ivanpah Valley faces the potential of even greater destruction, as First Solar Inc considers building two massive solar facilities on over 15 square miles of pristine desert.