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Showing posts with the label wind

Southern Nevada Wildlands Get Temporary Reprieve

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A Federal judge recently ruled against the Bureau of Land Management's approval of the Searchlight Wind project because the BLM did not adequately analyze potential impacts on golden eagles, bats and desert tortoises, according to Basin & Range Watch.  The BLM initially approved of the Searchlight Wind project in 2013 based on poor quality wildlife surveys paid for by the developer.  The original impact analysis considered only three golden eagle nests within a ten-mile radius of the wind project, even though a separate study funded by the BLM found as many as ten nests.

Apex Clean Energy - the project developer - and the BLM may decide to redo some of the environmental analysis that the court found to be lacking.  However, it would be wiser if Nevada and its neighbors focused investments on energy efficiency, and implemented policies that encourage distributed, locally-controlled renewable energy generation and battery storage.

This stretch of southern Nevada is relative…

Juniper Flats Safe For Now

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Activists in the Lucerne and Victor Valleys received good news from the BLM this past week that plans for the North Peak Wind project had been withdrawn.  The project would have industrialized  nearly 16 square miles of a popular outdoor recreation area known as Juniper Flats popular for hiking and horseback riding, where desert habitat transitions from creosote and yucca scrub to chapparal, grassland and desert conifer.  Groups such as the Alliance for Desert Preservation and Mojave Communities Conservation Collaborative quickly organized to protect Juniper Flats, as well as to challenge the proposed Coolwater-Lugo Transmission project, which is still pending.

Although it is not yet clear why the company withdrew the wind project application, local expression of concern regarding the fate of the beautiful Juniper Flats likely sent a strong signal to the developer - E.ON Climate and Renewables - that they faced an uphill battle.  Local concern also prompted opposition to the project …

FOIA Documents Shed Light on Closed-Door Meetings on Eagle Deaths

Documents received by the American Bird Conservancy in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request shed light on numerous closed-door meetings from October 2012 through at least March 2013 that the Department of Interior held with a coalition of wind industry and conservation group representatives - known as the "Group of 16" - to continue the "dialogue" on two policy efforts that impact bald and golden eagles: 1) Interior's plans to completely revise the eagle take permit rule, and 2) a revision to the eagle take rule specifically allowing companies to kill bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years.  Interior finalized the 30-year eagle take permits in December 2013, but has not yet finalized the more comprehensive revisions to the eagle take rule.  The American Bird Conservancy has expressed concern that the invitation-only meetings may have violated rules and laws designed to maintain transparency and public participation in how the Federal go…

Four Mojave Wind Projects Begin Early Environmental Review

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At least four separate wind projects in the Mojave Desert are in the early stages of environmental review, according to the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) land records database, and would industrialize over 76 square miles of intact desert and ridgeline if they receive final approval.   Energy companies are interested in several other swaths of the Mojave, but are only evaluating the strength of wind resources or have not taken significant steps toward environmental review.

Laurel Mountain Wind

L.H. Renewables, LLC, A Redlands-based corporate entity registered to a post office box, has submitted a plan of development for the Laurel Mountain wind project, which would involve installing as many as 130 wind turbines on nearly 40 square miles of intact desert west of Ridgecrest.  The company has been testing wind resources in the area for years, and as of early November the BLM initiated environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.  

The Laurel Mountain wind pr…

Department of Interior Favors Industry Over Wildlife in New Rule

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The Department of Interior finalized a new rule extending permits for wind energy facilities to kill bald and golden eagles in a move that could encourage even more wind energy development in eagle habitat.   Interior's issuance of the new rule caps a public review process that started last year, and extends eagle "take" permits -- permission to kill or harass protected bald and golden eagles -- from 5 years to 30 years.  The rule provides the wind industry with assurances it needs to finance and build sprawling energy projects in areas where eagle mortality is more likely, even though efforts to offset eagle losses are still experimental or speculative.  The American Bird Conservancy, Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, and others have expressed concern about Interior's decision.

The final rule includes some concessions to conservation groups, such as requiring wind companies to report the mortality rates of eagles at new project sites,  but wind facilities are…

Los Angeles Times Misses the Full Story on Wind

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The Los Angeles Times today published an editorial sympathizing with the California Wind Energy Association (CalWEA) regarding the relative lack of development zones suitable for wind energy in California's desert.  CalWEA believes the planning process for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) - which will identify areas where land management and wildlife officials believe utility-scale renewable energy development is appropriate in the California Desert District - favors solar over wind.

CalWEA and the Los Angeles Times fail to acknowledge that wind turbines already cover vast swaths of our desert.  In California's San Gorgonio Pass, 3,000 wind turbines have transformed over 20 square miles of desert and foothills into an industrial zone.   In the Tehachapi area, the industry has developed over 50 square miles into a wind energy zone hosting hundreds of wind turbines.  One of the largest wind projects in the country is located in the Mojave Desert near Tehachap…

How To Avoid An Ecological Disaster While Solving Another

President Obama announced today his administration's Climate Action Plan, which includes a long overdue directive to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, calls for improving vehicle fuel economy standards,  and raising the bar for energy efficiency in our homes and businesses.  All of these are urgent and smart ways to fix our destructive energy paradigm.  In a surprisingly positive shift,  the President also signaled that he may not approve the Keystone oil pipeline if it results in a net increase of greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the President also outlined plans for continued utility-scale renewable energy expansion; these plans must be reconciled with his administration's unfortunately overlooked effort to protect wildlands and wildlife. The Climate Action Plan only vaguely refers to the fairly comprehensive National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy released by the …

Feds Publish Final Order Allowing Wind Company to Kill a Condor; Other Wildlife At Risk

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The Obama administration published the Record of Decision on Friday that permits Terra-Gen Power LLC to industrialize more of the western Mojave Desert with the Alta East Wind project, and kill at least one endangered California condor without penalty.  The American Bird Conservancy is asking the Obama administration to reverse the unprecedented move to allow the condor death, noting that many private and non-profit groups investing resources in the bird's recovery were blindsided.

Industrial Transformation of Western Mojave
The wind project - financed by Citibank and Google - will be located near the Tehachapi Mountains and destroy desert tortoise and golden eagle habitat in a region continuously besieged by new new proposals for wind projects.  Wildlife officials admit that the cumulative impact of so much industrialization is difficult to calculate, but Washington's "all of the above" energy strategy typically fast-tracks permits ahead of greater environmental …

Solar Awakening

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An article in Renewable Energy World discusses natural gas as a "bridge" to renewable energy sources, such as utility-scale solar and wind, showing how energy companies are exploiting demand for renewable energy to double down on investment in fossil fuels and unnecessary infrastructure, such as transmission lines.   As long as we draw the majority of our energy from giant utility companies, you can bet on an unhealthy mix of fossil fuels in the grid.  Utility companies are guaranteed a fixed return on the massive transmission lines that link expensive and dirty central station power plants to our cities from far away, and the companies that build those power plants are heavily invested in fossil fuels.

Wind turbines spoiling desert landscapes require new transmission lines, and the "intermittency" of the wind requires a new natural gas plant, and more transmission lines.  These companies collect a guaranteed profit from you,  and then turn around and invest that m…

Laws Not Enforced as Wind Industry Kills More Birds and Bats

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The Associated Press published a thorough article examining the number of eagles and other protected birds being killed by wind energy projects -- many built on remote wildlands -- and highlighting the Department of Interior's unwillingness to hold the wind industry accountable to laws meant to protect wildlife.   With over 573,000 birds killed by wind turbines each year,  according to the Wildlife Society Bulletin, as well as a significant number of bats, the Department of Interior can only point to superficial and voluntary guidelines that the wind industry continues to ignore.

Some environmentalists attempt to downplay the problem, as Sierra Club editor Paul Rauber did in a Sierra magazine article earlier this year that described hundreds of thousands of bird deaths each year as "trivial."  The wind industry responded to the Associated Press article with the same argument employed by Mr. Rauber, stating that buildings, cars, and cats kill even more birds each year.  …

Wind Developer Targets Victor Valley's Juniper Flats

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Chicago-based energy company E ON Climate and Renewables is planning to install 42 wind turbines, each over 400 feet tall, on the Juniper Flats area of Victor Valley.  The company has been testing wind resources in the area since 2010, and submitted notice to the Bureau of Land Management in January of its intent to begin the environmental review process to build the industrial-scale project.  The current right-of-way application spans over 23 square miles of public lands at the foot of the San Bernardino National Forest.

Juniper Flats are a prized recreation area for residents of the Victor Valley, where many enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hang-gliding, and 4x4 driving on designated routes.  The area features riparian habitat that attracts a range of wildlife, including great horned owls, vireos, coyotes, jackrabbits, and an often beautiful wildflower display in the spring.  Community volunteers and the Friends of Juniper Flats have partnered with the Bureau of Land…

Sierra Club Publication Promotes Industry Over Wildlife

After flipping through the pages of the Sierra Club's latest issue of Sierra magazine, I am left with a deep disappointment as the organization -- of which I am a member -- continues to sound more like an industry lobby group than a conservation organization.   Much of the March/April issue is dedicated to exulting the wind industry, with less than a page of material that provides a weak description of the industry's impact on wildlife and wildlands, describing the death of birds and bats by wind turbines as "trivial," and placing a lot of optimistic emphasis on the industry's ability to self-regulate.  As another blogger put it, "Not From The Onion: Sierra Magazine’s All-Wind Issue."

The Sierra Club's communication team cannot seem to promote renewable energy while adhering to a conservation ethic, despite ample opportunities to do so, suggesting the wind industry carries substantial influence over the organization and that the battle to eliminate h…

Trivializing Loss of Life to Defend Industry

I am looking forward to the next issue of Sierra magazine because it will feature an article regarding the wind industry's impacts on birds and bats.  The author, Paul Rauber, wrote a good piece in the last issue on distributed generation, and some of the policy reforms necessary to expand deployment of community solar.  However, as I pointed out earlier this week, Mr. Rauber thought that a graphic and article published by Mother Jones comparing bird mortality by wind turbines to bird mortality by cats was a useful piece of information to share with the Sierra Club's thousands of followers in a separate piece published on the Club's website.  The Mother Jones article and graphic not only portray the loss of 440,000 birds a year as trivial, but also suggests that enforcement of bird conservation law on the wind industry is a tool of renewable energy "opponents."  The article boils down two complex and different problems into an unsophisticated and kitschy graphic …