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Solar Companies Rushing the Certification Process?

Mr. Kevin Emmerich of Basin and Range Watch recently noted in a comment on this blog how the California Energy Commission (CEC) appears to be bending over backward to accommodate an expedited certification process.  As clarified in the comments, it appears that the energy companies (BrightSource, Solar Millennium, etc) are rushing to meet a deadline imposed in Washington mandating that projects break ground by the end of the year (2010) in order to qualify for Federal financial backing.

Underscoring Mr. Emmerich's point, a transcript posted on the Ridgecrest Solar Project site from an informational hearing, a Deputy Director from the CEC commented that the compressed timeline requested by the applicant (Solar Millennium in the case of Ridgecrest) was going to pose a strain on the CEC and other agencies--such as BLM, Fish and Wildlife, etc--involved in the certification process since the site chosen by Solar Millennium in Ridgecrest raises significant questions regarding biological…

Ever feel like you're being watched?

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A Leopard Lizard in the Mojave Desert, watching me carefully from the shade of a Creosote shrub.  Once I got too close he/she (?) darted off and left me no chance to pursue with my camera.

Mojave Desert Future On the Table

Many of you have probably read that the Federal Government promised $1.4 billion in loan guarantees for BrightSource Energy's proposed solar site in the Mojave Desert's Ivanpah Valley.  Even though the California Energy Commission (CEC) has not yet made a final decision regarding whether or not to approve the solar site, the political pressure is clearly in favor of BrightSource despite the biological importance of the site (read more about the importance here).   The CEC's "Presiding Member" is due to make a final decision regarding the Ivanpah proposal soon, which will be one of many decisions made by our elected officials or policymaking bodies over the next year that could make this a critical year for the Mojave.  In addition to Ivanpah, you can expect the CEC to also make a decision regarding the future of several more large energy sites, to include Ridgecrest, Abengoa, and Calico in the Mojave, and Blythe, Palen, Rice and Solar Two sites in the Colorado De…

Apple Valley Considering CDPA 2010 tonight; Victorville Council on March 2nd

The Apple Valley Town Council will reconsider its position on the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) at tonight's meeting, and the Victorville City Council will consider its position on CDPA on 2 March.  As of 16 February Victorville Mayor Rudy Cabriales was not sure he had enough information to make an informed decision, and Council Member Caldwell was opposed, citing concerns that military training and mining interests would be impeded, according to minutes from the February meeting.

Ridgecrest Solar Site: Ivanpah of the West Mojave?

Preliminary surveys of the proposed site for the Ridgecrest Solar Power Project in the western Mojave Desert indicate it is currently home to several sensitive species, even though it is not far from the outskirts of Ridgecrest.   The proposed facility would disturb roughly 2,000 acres, and would be situated on a site already crossed by some dirt roads, and adjacent to Highway 395.  During surveys in 2009,  however, biologists spotted approximately 50 desert tortoise, including 40 in the proposed disturbance area, and four active Kit fox burrows were also found.  An active burrow for an American Badger was discovered within the project buffer zone, and four primary burrows for the Western burrowing owl were found within the proposed disturbance area.

Although the endangered Mojave ground squirrel was not spotted during the surveys, biologists judged that there is a high likelihood that the squirrels occur on the site because of high quality habitat in the area, and the existence of Mo…

Ivanpah Mitigation Details Available

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BrightSource Energy's submitted details and environmental analysis for its alternative site configuration--redesigned primarily to avoid areas on the site with high concentrations of special status plants--has been posted to the California Energy Commission (CEC) website.  A previous post on this blog provided a synopsis of BrightSource Energy's press release on the matter.   The details provide more illumination on the altered impact of the proposed redesign, although the massive site would still displace, and likely result in the loss of many rare plants and desert tortoise.   Some of the greatest overall impacts of Ivanpah will remain, to include the displacement of many genetically significant desert tortoises, grazing land for Peninsula bighorn sheep, and ephemeral washes.  Permitting so much construction in the Ivanpah Valley reduces biologically diverse Mojave Desert habitat and sets a precedent for accepting a private company's ill-informed siting decision with nom…

CEC Staff Prefers Smaller Solar Plant in Colorado Desert

The California Energy Commission (CEC) released it's Staff Assessment and Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Stirling Energy Systems (SES) Solar Two site earlier this month.  SES Solar Two -- the twin of the Calico Solar site proposed for the Mojave Desert near Pisgah--is a proposed solar plant utilizing "SunCatcher" technology on nearly 6500 acres of land in the Colorado Desert, just West of El Centro.  In its assessment of biological resource, the CEC Staff indicates that it prefers a reduced site footprint in order to minimize impacts on ephemeral washes and the Flat Tailed Horned Lizard (FTHL), which is considered a special status species.

CEC judged that the largest ecological impact the construction of SES Solar Two would have would be the alteration of hydrological features--primarily ephemeral washes--and how this could negatively affect the collection of State waters.  SES provided "Drainage Avoidance Alternatives" which involved site footpri…