|Construction of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar project in the northeastern Mojave Desert. Less than 2/3 of the destruction is visible in this photo, taken in April, with ground disturbance and clearing still in progress.|
To be certain, the western Mojave population of the desert tortoise also faces threats from expanding suburbs, illegal off-road activity, and wind and solar energy facilities, so habitat preservation in the western Mojave may be better than nothing. But the purpose of the BrightSource Energy mitigation plan was intended to offset the local impacts of the project, as outlined by the CEC, so the deviation from the original plan is worrisome to conservationists that are watching many other large solar and wind projects move forward in what has been a rubber-stamp environmental review process, threatening to further fragment and destroy large swaths of tortoise habitat without much concern for maintaining the species' long-term recovery and survival.
|A desert tortoise in its burrow in the Ivanpah Valley. This tortoise may have survived BrightSource Energy's destruction, but its burrow is now in the path of First Solar's proposed Stateline Solar power project.|
The shortcomings in BrightSource Energy's mitigation plans call into doubt the CEC's ability to offset the immense environmental damage caused by solar facilities built on pristine desert wildlands, even as the CEC is considering approval for two more massive BrightSource Energy projects in the desert. As BrightSource continues to plot the death of our desert ecosystems, Australia is likely to add 600 megawatts of rooftop solar this year, on top of 1,700 megawatts already installed, several times more energy than will be produced in Ivanpah, with none of the ecological destruction.