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Showing posts with the label mojave fringe-toed lizard

BrightSource Palen Solar Project Moving Through Environmental Review

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The California Energy Commission (CEC) this month published part of its Final Staff Assessment for BrightSource Energy's Palen Solar power project.  After evidentiary hearings this fall, the CEC plans to decide whether to approve the project proposed for the Chuckwalla Valley between Indio and Blythe, resulting in the destruction of up to 5.9 square miles of desert habitat that currently hosts kit foxes, Mojave fringe-toed lizards, and burrowing owls.  Biologists are concerned that the project would not only disrupt sand transport through the valley that sustains fringe-toed lizard habitat, but also pose a collision and burn risk to a variety of birds, from golden eagles to the endangered Yuma clapper rail.
The size of the project is difficult to imagine, so I provide a comparison of the project footprint (red overlay, below) to the city of Palm Springs.  BrightSource Energy says the facility would generate 500 megawatts of energy through steam boilers positioned on two 750-foot t…

Will the Sierra Club Step up to the Plate?

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According to Reuters, the Sierra Club claims it is still considering whether or not to challenge Tessera Solar LLC's proposed Calico Solar power project.  If built, the project would destroy 7.2 square miles of pristine desert that is home to at least 18 desert tortoises and impact surrounding habitat where dozens more tortoises have been observed.  The site is also home to rare plants, Western burrowing owls, and Mojave fringe-toed lizard, and would block a wildlife corridor for bighorn sheep.

Although the Sierra Club has been involved in the permit process for several destructive solar power projects, the Club has not yet taken legal action to block them.   The Sierra Club positions itself as a leader in renewable energy, but the group is only now considering taking legal action to steer energy companies in the right direction.  There is plenty of room for solar panels on disturbed land and rooftops -- leave our deserts for future generations.

What You Can Do:
If you are a Sierr…

Palen Solar Power project moves forward; Imperial Solar Threatens Cultural Heritage

The California Energy Commission (CEC) provided preliminary approval for a solar power project that will consume almost 8 square miles of mostly public land near the Palen Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) and that would disturb part of the designated Chuckwalla Critical Habitat Unit for the desert tortoise.  The Palen Solar power project is being proposed by Chevron and a subsidiary it created, Solar Millennium LLC.

The CEC is requesting that Solar Millennium LLC build a reconfigured layout and not the initial proposal in order to reduce (but not eliminate) impacts to Mojave Fringe Toed Lizard habitat.  However, the project would also disrupt desert tortoise linkages since it would block multiple washes that allow them to travel under Interstate 10.  If built, the project would probably slow genetic ties between the tortoise populations north and south of the Interstate.  Defender's of Wildlife proposed that Solar Millennium and the CEC should reduce the project by ha…

Calico Solar Environmental Impact Deemed Significant

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The Calico Solar (formerly SES Solar One) project proposed for the Pisgah area was deemed to have significant impacts on biological resources, according to the draft environmental impact statement produced by the California Energy Commission (CEC).   The Calico Solar project, which would be built on approximately 8,230 acres of Mojave Desert public land.

Unlike with the Ridgecrest Solar Power Project staff assessment (see previous post) where the CEC openly recommended against construction on the proposed site, the CEC Staff did not make an outright recommendation on Calico Solar.  The CEC Staff made it clear, however, that the environmental impacts would be significant under current environmental laws, and if construction goes forward Calico Solar would have to implement substantial mitigation and adhere to several conditions in order to reduce the environmental impact to "less than significant" levels.   The Staff also noted that the Calico Solar "reduced acre…

Preliminary Environmental Data for Pisgah Solar Project

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You can review preliminary data submitted by Stirling Energy Systems (SES) for its application to build a solar power plant just west of Pisgah, CA along the I-40 and Route 66. The PDF file is listed under "Applicant's Documents" on this California Energy Commission site. Some of the land requested from BLM may have been donated to BLM by the Wildlands Conservancy (former "Catellus" lands). This begs the question, can the Federal Government properly steward land intended for conservation, which presumably was the intent of the Wildlands Conservancy's acquisition and donation.

What I do like about the site is that it's located relatively close to disturbed agricultural land and probably will not impact some of the Mojave's more impressive view sheds. This makes the project more agreeable, especially when compared to the impact of the Ivanpah site in the Eastern Mojave. That said, it will be interesting to see the full Environmental Impact State…