Monday, October 29, 2012

First Solar's Funny Math in Ivanpah

First Solar is moving forward with the environmental review process for the Silver State South project, and is requesting permission to destroy enough desert wildlands to accomodate a 350 megawatt (MW) facility, according to the draft report published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).   But the company only has a buyer for 250MW, and it only has permission from energy regulators to ship 230MW over the transmission lines.  This is significant because the company is proposing to build the project on a very narrow strip of desert habitat that serves as a critical genetic linkage for the desert tortoise, and First Solar appears to be inflating how much of the valuable desert land it actually needs. This is a location in the desert where every acre counts, but the company appears to be ignoring pleas by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other desert experts to preserve this wildlife corridor.

According to the California Public Utilities Commission, First Solar has a power purchase agreement to sell 250 MW to the utility company Southern California Edison.  In order to get that energy to customers hundreds of miles away, it will have to be shipped on transmission lines that stretch across part of Nevada and through the Mojave Desert.  Think of those transmission lines as highways. As more power plants ship more energy on those lines, the traffic gets so bad that more energy cannot be added unless you pay for extremely expensive upgrades. It's not clear how much extra capacity the transmission lines closes to the Silver State South project have, but Southern California Edison filed regulatory paperwork indicating that it would only accept 230 MW on the transmission lines from First Solar's proposed project.

First Solar is obviously trying to maximize profit potential, designing a project with the hopes that conditions change and it can sell more power at a later date.  The company pretends to have concern for its ecological impacts by making marginal modifcations to its other projects, but its insistence on (over)building a power plant that could indefinitely sever a genetic linkage for an endangered species, instead of looking for alternative locations, shows First Solar's crass disregard for biodiversity.

If First Solar is serious about being a friend of the Earth, it would not be building in the Ivanpah Valley.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely and if the regulators were serious about protecting the environment as they are charged to do, they would put a stop to First Solar's shenanigans forthwith.

    Sadly the only thing that they seem to be able to get done is more kangaroo court style approvals of most of these boondoggles that appear before them.

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