Posts

Showing posts with the label water

Hidden Hills Solar: Chorus of Concern Grows

Image
As BrightSource Energy's construction hums along at its Ivanpah Solar project site in the northeastern Mojave Desert, the company's proposed Hidden Hills Solar project further north is being scrutinized as the California Energy Commission (CEC) accepts comments on a preliminary staff assessment of the project's potential impacts.  As noted earlier on this blog, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was one of the first to note some serious deficiencies in the CEC's staff assessment, with a focus on the project's demand for scarce groundwater supplies.  Since then, several other parties--including Native American tribes, the National Park Service, Center for Biological Diversity, the Nature Conservancy, and the Amargosa Conservancy--have expressed concerns for water and wildlife,  while Inyo County reiterated its expectation that BrightSource Energy compensate it for millions of dollars worth of increased services needed in the remote corner of California where the pr…

BLM Voices Concerns Over BrightSource Water Use

Image
BLM sent a letter to the California Energy Commission (CEC) this month recommending stronger measures to mitigate or monitor BrightSource Energy's proposed Hidden Hills Solar project.  If approved, the project would be built in the Pahrump Valley next to th California-Nevada border, and draw an estimated 227.1 million gallons of water during a 29-month construction period, and 45.6 million gallons each year during operation.  Groundwater is already severely overdrawn in the Pahrump Valley, causing subsidence in the land that may ultimately reduce. the amount of water that can be stored.

BLM provided the following photo of large cracks in the land near the proposed Hidden Hills solar site-- an indication of subsidence resulting from overdrawn groundwater.

In its submission to the CEC, BLM noted that simply requiring BrightSource to replace extracted water at some point over the expected 30 year life of the project may not be sufficient given the current severity of groundwater short…

BrightSource Solar Project Will Endanger Water Supply in Inyo and Nye Counties

Image
BrightSource Energy's proposed Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System (HHSEGS) is expected to significantly draw down local aquifers in California and Nevada, according to the California Energy Commission, unless the company can buy out local water users.   The solar project would be built on 5 square miles of privately owned land in California's Inyo County, right next to the border with Nye County, Nevada.  The facility would use nearly 45.6 million gallons of water each year for mirror washing and other services during operation, and up to 227.1 million gallons of water during the 29 month construction period.   The CEC's draft certifications would require the company to conduct well monitoring and offset its water draw by purchasing over 53 million gallons each year to restore the Pahrump Valley Groundwater Basin.

The facility's water draw could affect desert springs along the historic Old Spanish Trail that used to provide relief to weary desert travelers a…

Stephen Colbert Takes on Natural Gas Fracking

Extracting energy resources is taking its toll on all of America's natural resources, including the Mojave Desert.  While Big Solar projects destroy pristine desert habitat and deplete ancient groundwater aquifers in the southwestern deserts, natural gas exploration is poisoning water supplies elsewhere.  Solar panels on rooftops and a clean glass of water never sounded so good.

Stephen Colbert explains (in his own special way), what a joke Big Energy can be when it tries to pretend that it does not come with any negative impacts on the environment.


The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,Video Archive

Desert Rain

Image
The Mojave Desert has been pounded by nearly 5 days of rain showers that could result in another beautiful wildflower bloom next spring.   As noted in Chris Clarke's Coyote Crossing, the downside is that invasive plants also benefit from the rains, and could lead to a bad wildfire season.  Indigenous plant species do not provide as much fuel for wildfires as some of the non-indigenous species (and are less nutritious for foraging animals like the desert tortoise), and previous rainy seasons were followed by wildfires that can wipe out acres of old-growth vegetation that will not grow back quickly.

Below are some pictures of the swollen Mojave River as it passes through Victorville, California on Wednesday.  The photographs were taken during a break in the weather, but heavy showers resumed in the Western Mojave Desert on Wednesday night.





San Bernardino County Opposed to Conservation; Supports Corporations Pilfering Public Land

According to the minutes from the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisor's meeting from 13 July, the County approved a position requesting that Federal Agencies avoid purchasing private land for conservation purposes, and also requested that additional land be set aside for Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use.  At the end of the day, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors showed just how short-sighted their policy decisions are, and supported a subsidy for corporations that are swallowing up open space and desert wilderness for their own profit.

Summary:  We (the County Supervisors) support industrial scale development of pristine, public desert wilderness, but we do not want you to conserve additional land in order to off-set the damage.  We should, however, allow more OHV use, which is well known to destroy wilderness.  Net effect: Less wilderness, less wildlife, less camping, less hiking, less photography,  less beautiful vistas, less nature, less open space, less natural …

$50 Million Burried in the Mojave

That's right folks, if you are special enough to have access to ample capital, financing and real estate in the Mojave you can lay claim to thousands of acre-feet of water (1 acre foot = 325,851 gallons) deposited underneath the Mojave Desert, and earn $50 million dollars per year for as long as the water lasts, according to a Business Week article.  Unfortunately, this treasure hunt can impact the wildlife and people of the Southwest long after the treasure is spent.   Cadiz Inc, which has been growing lemons and raisins on some of its Mojave land as it conducted studies to ascertain the volume of subterranean water it could sell, is planning to pump that water as soon as it can manage the paper work.  The Cadiz funded study, conducted by CH2M Hill, suggests there is enough water for up to 400,000 people in the aquifer.  Although Feinstein has voiced opposition to the pumping, the political forces in California are likely to swamp the Senator's clout.

So what's the big de…

West Mojave Solar Proposal to be Water Intensive

Looking over the proposal for the Abengoa Solar's Mojave Solar project description indicates that this plant would use water cooling as opposed to the far more eco-friendly dry-cooling technology proposed in a number of other solar plants.  Just how much water are we talking about?  According to Abengoa Solar, approximately 1,077 acre-feet of water per year for each plant site.  There will be two plant sites.  I had to look it up myself, but a single acre-foot of water is equivalent to 325,851 gallons of water.  In total,  Abengoa's project would consume nearly 350 MILLION gallons of water.  I had to check my math twice.


View Untitled in a larger map

This is yet another sign of the immaturity of the solar siting situation in the Mojave Desert.  Companies are rushing to stake a claim without thinking about the impact of the project.  Abengoa was smart enough to locate their project on mostly abandoned agricultural fields, but they're making the same mistake as Beacon Energy…

Got Water?

Finding a location for industrial growth in the Mojave that provides the most public benefit with the least impact is always the key challenge, and one discussed in other postings on Mojave Desert Blog.  It's unfortunate, then, that the Beacon Solar Energy Project proposed near California City in the Northwestern Mojave is running into a seemingly obvious hurdle.  The project's proposed site is perfect from a biological standpoint -- the land was previously used for agriculture and has little value as habitat.  Developing this land (approximately 2,000 acres) would not deprive endangered species of key habitat but would provide up to 250 MW of renewable energy.

So what's the hold-up?  Water.  The developers want to used cooling technology that requires vast amounts of water.  If built as proposed, the California Energy Commission estimates that the solar project would use 1400 acre feet per year, which is equivalent to about 456 million gallons.

Ironically, other solar ene…