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Showing posts with the label solar millennium

Indigenous America Asks Questions About "Green" Policies

Film maker Robert Lundahl captures Native American concerns regarding the destruction of sacred sites during the initial construction of Solar Millennium's Blythe solar power project. Ironically, the bulldozers already cleared an ancient geoglyph known as "the sun."  The solar project is being delayed since Solar Millennium's switch to photovoltaic panels will require approval, and the company is also attempting to secure financing.  If the company clears these hurdles, construction could resume next year and destroy up to 11 square-miles of historical sites and desert habitat.


Indigenous America Asks Questions About U.S. "Green" Policies from Robert Lundahl on Vimeo.

Solar Millennium Uncertain About Destructive Blythe Project

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According to Forbes, German firm Solar Millennium and its American front company - Solar Trust of America - have announced that they will not accept the 2.1 billion dollar Federal loan guarantee for the Blythe solar power project, and they are now going to use photovoltaic technology (the same panels used on rooftops!).  The company switched to photovoltaic (PV) technology from the antiquated solar trough design because PV is much more cost efficient.  However, the company's change in technology represents a significant departure from its original project application and may require additional environmental review.  The abrupt change in plans may have been the reason the company abandoned the Federal loan, which was granted based on its original solar trough plans.  The company will have to compete for private investments as the markets are taking an ugly turn.

Initial construction for the 11 square-mile Blythe solar project has already destroyed sites considered sacred by Native …

Destructive Ridgecrest Solar Project in Limbo

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German firm Solar Millennium LLC, and its American front company ("Solar Trust of America") recently decided to change the proposed Ridgecrest Solar power project from all concentrating solar thermal mirrors to photovoltaic panels (PV), a more economically efficient technology.  However, when Solar Millennium asked the California Energy Commission (CEC) for permission to modify its Ridgecrest project to PV technology,  the CEC staff declined to continue certification for the project and is likely to relinquish jurisdiction to another authority.  The CEC only reviews and certifies thermal energy projects, and PV technology is not classified as thermal.  The legal snag is likely to further delay consideration of the project, which the CEC staff previously assessed to be poorly sited and likely to have significant negative impacts on desert wildlife. 

Solar Millennium is desperately trying to fit a square through a round hole with the Ridgecrest project.  After the CEC staff an…

Your tax dollars at work...

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Secretary of Interior Kenneth Salazar and California Governor Jerry Brown stand with executives from German firm Solar Millennium during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Blythe Solar power project.  Even though Solar Millennium's board is under investigation for misappropriation of funds and embezzlement, Mr. Salazar ok'd the project and over 2.1 billion dollars in taxpayer-backed loans and grants for the company.  Initial stages of construction have also destroyed part of a Native American sacred site.

According to the Department of Interior, these massive solar power projects on public land are called the "New Energy Frontier" --seems like just another version of corporate greed, scandal and disrespect for the public's land and money.   Perhaps they are ignoring the real energy frontier-- the untapped potential of rooftop solar, which energy experts assess can meet much of our energy demand in the southwest without sacrificing public land.

Ridgecrest Site Still Targeted by Solar Millennium

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According to information obtained by Basin and Range Watch, the German energy firm Solar Millennium LLC and its US front company, "Solar Trust of America," are proposing a reconfigured facility for the Ridgecrest Solar power project.  The new site would use all photovoltaic panels, instead of thermal solar technology.  Check out the Basin and Range Watch update here.

The facility was opposed by the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff last year because the site chosen by Solar Millennium would cut off a Mohave ground squirrel corridor and destroy a robust desert tortoise population.   The company's board is currently being investigated for misappropriation of funds and embezzlement in Germany, but the US government is moving forward and issuing the company over 2.1 billion dollars in taxpayer-backed loans and 18 million dollars in grants for the Blythe solar power project.

Scandal-Plagued Company Holding Ceremony; Governor and Salazar to Attend

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German company Solar Millennium LLC and its American front "Solar Trust of America" are holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the Blythe Solar power project tomorrow, which California Governor Jerry Brown and Secretary of Interior Kenneth Salazar plan to attend.  Their attendance is surprising since the 11 square mile project is under scrutiny for financial misconduct and destruction of sacred Native American sites.  

Germany began investigating Solar Millennium after uncovering reports that an executive was paid 9 million Euros (about 12.5 million dollars) after working only 74 days at the company, and other board members are under investigation for embezzlement Despite the scandal, Solar Millennium's project is still on track to receive over 2.1 billion dollars in loans and an 18 million dollar grant from the Federal government (courtesy of the taxpayer).

Solar Millennium began initial construction on the site earlier this year, destroying some sacred geoglyphs (rock …

Feds Balk at $125 Tortoise Website; Spend Billions to Kill Tortoises

As I wrote about yesterday, the White House announced its Campaign to Cut Waste and highlighted the DesertTortoise.gov website as a prime example of the sort of "waste" the government hopes to eliminate.  Chris Clarke over at Coyote Crossing learned from someone familiar with the website that it costs approximately 125 dollars, and a few hours of labor to upload new information each year.  The site received 49,000 visitors from January through April this year.  That's less than a penny per visitor, and we can expect tens of thousands of more visitors by the end of the year.  Also, the White House apparently did not bother giving the wildlife officials that maintain the website (as one of their many tasks) any advance notice that they would target the effort as an example of "waste."

So the White House does not want to spend 125 dollars a year to educate tens of thousands of people about the best way to share an environment with a threatened species, but the Whi…

Energy Companies Take Aim at Sacred Sites in California Desert

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Chevron and Solar Millennium LLC have begun bulldozing what will ultimately be an 11 square-mile field of mirrors and steel, replacing old growth desert and ironwood washes in the Sonoran desert.  The construction is also cutting into an area considered sacred by Native Americans, with giant geoglyphs depicting deities carved into desert gravel.  The largest geoglyph near the project is of the god Kokopelli, which plays a central role in some Native American tribes' cosmological view.



The Blythe Solar power project is one of several that was "fast-tracked" by the Department of Interior for approval last year, leading to what many consider to be a hasty environmental and historical review process.  A judge halted one of those projects--the Imperial Valley solar power project--because the Department of Interior did not adequately consult with the Quechan tribe before approving the project.  Another legal challenge challenged six of the projects, including Blythe, and is pe…

Loggerhead Shrike

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A loggerhead shrike perched on the branch of a creosote bush in the western Mojave Desert, where Solar Millennium proposes building the Ridgecrest Solar power project.  

Desert Calico

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A Desert Calico flower blooming on the site of Solar Millennium's proposed Ridgecrest Solar power project. The site is mostly creosote shrub habitat, with a desert wash crossing much of the area.  Biodiversity on the site is high, with desert tortoise, Mohave ground squirrel, loggerhead shrike, and various flowering plants.


Calico and Ridgecrest Solar Projects Haunt Pristine Desert

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Two different solar companies--Solar Millennium LLC and K Road Power--have officially revived proposals to build solar power projects on public land in the Mojave Desert.  Both projects have been heavily criticized by biologists and taxpayers (and some biologists that pay taxes) as a waste of money and public land.

Calico Solar Project  K Road Power (and its subsidiary K Road Solar) filed a petition with the California Energy Commission (CEC) on 22 March to modify the original Calico Solar power project, that was approved by the CEC last year.  The company that initially proposed and won approval for the Calico Solar power project--Tessera Solar LLC--could not afford to build the project, and sold the rights to public land to K Road Power.   That company is now proposing slight changes to the original proposal, calling for a mix of photovoltaic panels and the "Suncatcher" design.  Because K Road Solar is changing the original design, they should have to submit to a new environ…

Research Highlights Deserts' Role in Sequestering Carbon

New research by the University of California suggests we should take a harder look at the potential carbon sequestration capacity of America's deserts.  According to the study, disturbing approximately 11 square miles of desert habitat could release 6,000 metric tons of carbon per year.  That is roughly the equivalent of putting a fleet of 5,300 SUVs on the road, each traveling 120 miles per month.  Desert plants and soil organisms take in and store tons of carbon each year.   When the desert habitat is destroyed, not only does it lose its ability to capture and store carbon, but carbon locked into the soils is likely to be released. According to the study:
When desert plants grow, they absorb carbon dioxide (CO2). The carbons (C), as sugars, move into the roots and soil organisms.  Carbon dioxide is respired back into the soil, part of which reacts with calcium (Ca) in the soil to form calcium carbonate.  This is how our deserts sequester large amounts of C and thus function to re…

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project Cancelled

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Update: Solar Millennium LLC has since revived its proposal to destroy 6 square miles of public land, as of 24 March 2011.

Ending a stubborn and costly effort to destroy public lands in the name of profit, Solar Millennium finally canceled its proposal to build the Ridgecrest Solar power project in the Western Mojave Desert.   The company planned to bulldoze over 6 square miles of desert, but the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff warned the company about its intention not to approve the project.  The site is located on a Mohave Ground Squirrel connectivity corridor that links different populations of the animal, which the US Fish and Wildlife Service may list under the Endangered Species Act.  The site also hosts at least 40 endangered desert tortoises, and local residents expressed concerns about the project's overdraft of scarce groundwater resources.

The CEC's review of the Ridgecrest Solar power project was put on hold in July 2010 after the CEC initially expressed …

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…

Ivanpah Tortoise Count Highlights Poor Choices

Workers at BrightSource Energy's 5.6 square mile solar energy site in the Ivanpah Valley have now found approximately 40 desert tortoises in the paths of bulldozers, and the project is only in initial stages of construction.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service only expected to find 32 tortoises on the entire site, showing that the biological assessment of the Ivanpah Solar site underestimated its ecological value.  Some biologists are now concerned that the population of tortoises in the Ivanpah Valley--which represents a "genetically significant unit"--is at risk of a serious population decline as a result of solar energy projects.

On the other side of the Mojave, Solar Millennium LLC continues to search for ways to site a large solar power plant near the town of Ridgecrest.  Review of the company's proposal was suspended by the California Energy Commission (CEC) due to concerns that the site selected by Solar Millennium for its proposed project was too ecologically i…

Mohave Ground Squirrel Study Plan Due in October

The California Energy Commission (CEC) held expects to receive a proposal to study Mohave Ground Squirrel habitat connectivity from researchers by 15 October.  The Mohave Ground Squirrel is a threatened species that is found only in the western Mojave Desert, and lives in habitat being fragmented by urbanization, transportation corridors and now energy development.

Solar Millennium sought to build the a large solar power installation near the town of Ridgecrest that would have destroyed the Mohave Ground Squirrel's habitat.  The CEC opposed the project on the grounds that its ecological impact would be too significant, so Solar Millennium is planning to conduct a multi-year study of Mohave Ground Squirrel activity in the area to identify where in the area it could build an industrial operation.  The company's researchers will present their study plan by October 15th.

The CEC also revealed, however, that the Public Interest Energy Research Program is also starting a much wider …

Chuckwalla Valley Under Siege

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The Chuckwalla Valley in California's Colorado Desert is currently being considered for multiple solar energy projects, and has also been targeted for development in the Federal government's solar energy study zones.  The largest solar power project in California, the Blythe Solar power project proposed by Solar Millennium LLC, already received approval from the California Energy Commission (CEC), and NextEra's Genesis Solar power project received preliminary approval.   Both of these projects are proposed for public lands.

These two projects alone would fence off and bulldoze over 10,000 acres, and as you can see in the graphic below, the desert valley that currently is home to desert tortoise, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, bighorn sheep, lynx, burrowing owls, and kit fox will be transformed into an industrial zone if all of the remaining projects are approved.

The next project currently awaiting CEC preliminary approval is the Palen Solar power project, which would be locat…

Cultural Injustice at Blythe Solar Power Project Site

Kevin Emmerich of Basin and Range Watch commented on my previous post on the Blythe Solar power project that, in addition to the environmental damage Solar Millennium will do with its Blythe project, the company will also bulldoze over a thousand important Native American points of significance on the site.  So it is even more unfortunate that the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved the site. 

You can read a continuation of this discussion on Chris' Coyote Crossing blog and the Basin and Range Watch site.

Ridgecrest Solar Power Project Consideration Suspended for Two Years

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According to a letter submitted by Solar Millennium, the company has asked the California Energy Commission (CEC) to temporarily suspend the application review of its proposed Ridgecrest Solar Power project.  As noted previously on this blog, the Ridgecrest Solar power project could fragment critical Mohave Ground Squirrel habitat and harm a healthy desert tortoise population.  

Solar Millennium intends to use the suspension period to conduct an intensive study of the Mohave Ground Squirrel--aided by a known expert on the species--to shed light on the population and behavior in the vicinity of Ridgecrest beginning in Spring 2011 and run for two years.  In its letter, Solar Millennium stated its plans to restart the application for the Ridgecrest site if the study finds that construction will not significantly impact the Mohave Ground Squirrel.   The company could use the study to find a configuration for the site (or perhaps an alternative location) that would be less likely to draw o…

Solar Millenium Study Casts Doubt on Desert Tortoise Significance

Solar Millennium presented the results of a study that it presumably funded regarding the desert tortoise population on the proposed site of the Ridgecrest Solar Power project.  As noted in previous posts, the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff judged that construction on the proposed site would incur harm to the threatened Mohave Ground Squirrel and endangered desert tortoise that could not be corrected by mitigation efforts, and recommended against the project.  Solar Millenium's study, however,  supports its desire to build on the site and argues that the tortoise population present on the site is not worth preserving.

The Study's Findings:
According to the Solar Millennium study, the density of the desert tortoise population on the Ridgecrest site is not significant based on surveys of the West Mojave conducted in 1999.   The study makes this judgment by citing previous surveys (1999 and older) that suggest the desert tortoise population on the Ridgecrest site is comp…