|[Click on image to expand] The Palen Solar power project would destroy up to 5.9 square miles of creosote bush and dune habitat. Palen mountains, home to raptor nests, can be seen in this Google Earth image northeast of the project site.|
visual resources. The two towers will be visible from miles away to those seeking solitude and an escape to wildlands, including in Joshua Tree National Park and two wilderness areas. Two 750 foot tall towers rising from the middle of the open desert is difficult to imagine , but for comparison, the towers would dwarf the Washington Monument, and tie for the third tallest buildings in Los Angeles.
The project's thousands of mirrors are likely to appear as a lake or other body of water to shorebirds from far away, attracting them to their deaths. This is a growing concern after various species of birds were found dead or dying at other solar projects earlier this year, according to KCET, including the endangered Yuma clapper rail. What this means is that the project's impacts may extend beyond the species that normally forage in the area, and include species that use riparian habitat much further away. The CEC staff assessment responded to public concern on this danger by explaining that there is a lack of available data on this impact to birds; despite this lack of understanding, it appears the CEC is ready to give the project approval.
For birds that do find themselves flying over the project site, the dangers are numerous. Birds may be exhausted from flying to the solar project only to find no water, while most bird mortality is likely to be caused by collision with the tens of thousands of large mirrors that will be installed. Just as birds collide with reflective skyscraper windows that appear as open sky, BrightSource Energy's mirrors will likely confuse birds flying through the project site. Probably the worst fate will be for the birds unlucky enough to fly through the project's "solar flux," super-heated air that will burn birds to death or damage their feathers enough to prevent them from flying.
canine distemper outbreak from NextEra's Genesis Solar project site nearby. At least 11 of the animals have been found dead and tested positive for the disease, according to the staff assessment. Testing by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has shown that some of the surviving kit foxes in the vicinity of the Palen Solar project site may have been exposed to distemper - if the foxes are evicted from their dens they could expose other populations of the animal to the disease and contribute to its spread.
The project will also be built along a natural sand transport corridor, where wind carries sand from one dune system to another. Disrupting this natural cycle would affect not only the dune habitat on the project site, but downwind, as well.
|A younger Mojave fringe-toed lizard photographed at the Mojave National Preserve (Kelso Dunes). This species prefers sandy dune habitat found on the site of the Palen Solar power project.|