Translocation Results Uneven
Although the 161 desert tortoises found on the Silver State South project site were moved to the surrounding desert before bulldozers leveled the area for solar panels, at least seven of the displaced animals have fallen victim to natural predators and hyperthermia months after construction began. By contrast, only three of the animals already resident in the translocation recipient site have succumbed to predation, according to a review of documents provided by the Department of Interior in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Biologists will need to determine if the translocated tortoises have lower survival rates than tortoises already residing in the recipient site.
We do not know much about how the process of translocation impacts tortoises, but we do know that tortoises are very accustomed to their home range. Tortoises in their home range know where they can find fleeting pools of water during a rain shower, or where to find shelter from the sun when foraging during the hot daytime hours. Messing with their routines probably does not have a positive effect.
|This deceased tortoises was relocated from the solar project site in late 2014, and was found dead in July 2015. The tortoise was relocated relatively far from its home territory, which was bulldozed by First Solar. The tortoise almost certainly was killed by a predator. This photo was provided by the Bureau of Land Management in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Full documents provided by the Department of Interior can be found here.|
It is probably best to error on the side of caution and not push the desert tortoise and other desert wildlife past a tipping point. Instead companies like First Solar advocate for the destruction of vast swaths of desert wildlands to make way for more utility-scale solar projects.
First Solar Not Interested in Sustainability
First Solar has sided with monopolistic utility companies in attacks on rooftop solar, funding a skewed study to portray rooftop solar as uneconomical (a study that was countered by the Institute for Local Self Reliance that points out the many benefits of distributed generation). First Solar is apparently convinced that the price of electricity displayed on our utility bills is an accurate portrayal of the true costs of the energy we consume. This is ironic for a company that owes its existence to a movement that has accelerated demand for renewable energy precisely because of the need to acknowledge the total costs shouldered by our planet for destructive energy sources.
Despite ample time and opportunity to find better locations for its Silver State South project, First Solar stubbornly moved forward with its destructive project in the Mojave desert. First Solar ignored opportunities to double down on rooftop solar investments, or larger projects on already-disturbed lands.
|Construction crews for First solar bulldoze intact desert habitat for the Silver State South Solar project in the Ivanpah Valley.|