First, the Bechtel corporation told SCPR reporter Caitlin Esch that it should be allowed to bulldoze over 3.4 square miles of desert to build its Soda Mountain Solar project next to the Mojave National Preserve because “[t]here are distribution lines, phone lines, petroleum pipelines, a cell phone tower, a mine, off-highway vehicle recreation area, it’s also permitted for high speed rail." Apparently some phone lines, buried pipelines, and a cell phone tower in a valley means the rest of the intact habitat is not worth saving. In other words, Bechtel should be allowed to disturb as much as 2,800 football fields worth of land because some telephone lines already exist in the valley. The project will also pump over 62.5 million gallons during construction, and 10.2 million gallons of water each year afterward to wash the solar panels. This will draw from desert aquifers that support springs that support the endangered Mohave tui chub fish and bighorn sheep.
|A panorama photo of the site where Bechtel wants to build the 3.4 square mile Soda Mountain solar project next to the Mojave National Preserve. Photo by Michael Gordon (www.michael-gordon.com) See also Basin & Range Watch's site on the Soda Mountain Solar project.|
Separately, BrightSource Energy and NRG continue to justify their choice of location for the 5.6 square mile Ivanpah Solar project by describing the Ivanpah Valley as already-disturbed, and in some cases the companies give the false impression that the project was built on a dry lake bed. Google "Ivanpah Solar" and "dry lake" and you'll see plenty of articles that reference the project as built on the lake bed itself. The project was actually built west of the dry lake bed on an alluvial fan that provided habitat for a variety of wildlife.
If Bechtel and BrightSource are confused as to the definition of already-disturbed land, perhaps they can look at the example of other solar projects built on fallow agricultural land, or solar panels installed over parking lots and on rooftops. Solar is flexible and scalable - there is no reason to sacrifice remote wildlands when more sustainable alternatives exist.