Sunday, January 22, 2012

Solar Company Targets Proposed Desert Monument for Industrial Development

BrightSource Energy is considering another solar thermal facility in the Mojave Desert that, if approved, would fall within or immediately adjacent to the boundaries of the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument.  The Monument was introduced in the California Desert Protection Act of 2011, and endorsed by the Obama Administration as lands deserving protection.  The project would be built on ecologically important desert habitat within view of the iconic Amboy Crater and Historic Route 66, and impact lands conserved and donated to the Department of Interior by the Wildlands Conservancy.
The area of BrightSource Energy's proposed solar project.  The right-of-way application includes lands within and immediately adjacent to the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument.
According to an interview with the Press-Enterprise, BrightSource Energy has already entered into talks with a utility company that would buy the electricity if the project is built.  The Bureau of Land Management, however, has not begun the environmental review process for the solar project, and as of late 2011 was under the impression that the project would be withdrawn.

A red outline showing the proposed right-of-way for BrightSource Energy's Siberia solar project, next to Route 66.
BrightSource Energy's right-of-way application targets over 21 square miles of land, although the company told the Press-Enterprise the final footprint of the project would be about 10 square miles. BrightSource Energy is reportedly in talks with Oak Creek Energy Systems, which has applied for a right-of-way on nearly 32 square miles, some of them overlapping with BrightSource's right-of-way proposal.  According to BLM records, the wind company submitted a modification in December to remove 6,365 acres from its proposal, which is approximately the amount of overlap with BrightSource's solar proposal.

If BrightSource only develops the western portion of its right-of-way, the project may fall outside of the proposed Mounument, but the industrial development will impact an area identified by The Nature Conservany's Mojave Desert Ecoregional Assessment as "ecologically core"and critical to the long-term conservation of the desert's biodiversity. The project would still have negative impacts on the neighboring habitat inside the proposed Monument and the scenic values along Route 66.

The BLM document embedded below contains the general details of BrightSource Energy's Siberia solar right-of-way application.  BrightSource is submitting the application using a limited liability company called Solar Partners V.
Siberia Solar Record

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