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Calico Solar Avoiding Responsibility for Environmental Damage?

In a document submitted by Calico Solar LLC (Tessera Solar and Stirling Energy), the company proposes weakening conditions proposed by the California Energy Commission (CEC) requiring it to conserve nearby Mojave Desert wilderness to compensate for the loss of endangered species.   The proposed Calico Solar power project would displace or kill at least 100 desert tortoises currently located on the site, in addition to several other special status species, including desert kit fox, burrowing owl and foxtail cactus.

In the original conditions proposed by the CEC Staff, Calico Solar would have to purchase and conserve 14,018 acres of desert tortoise habitat elsewhere in the Mojave to make up for the loss of wildlife and habitat on the proposed site.  However, in the document submitted by Tessera Solar and Calico Solar LLC, the company lowers the acreage for which it is responsible to 11,658 acres on "BIO-17", which is the designation for the condition requiring the company to c…

Threatened Vistas

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Among the Mojave Desert treasures at stake as energy companies lay claim to vast tracts of BLM-managed desert wilderness are relatively unspoiled scenic vistas.  The view below was taken at dusk in the protected Mojave National Preserve.  Only a stretch of the lonely Kelbaker Road is visible in the distance and leading off to the west of creosote scrub and lava flows.  The California Desert Protection Act of 2010, introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein, could help preserve more Mojave treasures before they are bulldozed by improperly sited industrial-scale energy development.  In the meantime, it is up to the California Energy Commission (CEC) and science-based surveys of Mojave and Colorado Desert resources to prevent the "solar rush" from trampling irreplaceable wilderness and wildlife.

Initial Ridgecrest Solar Workshop Read-Out

A reader of this blog posted a brief summary of the Ridgecrest Solar Power Project public workshop held 23/24 April to address questions about the proposed site on issues of water, soil, transportation etc (pretty much everything except biological resources, which will be covered on 3 and 4 May.  See the original post here.)

What is striking is that the water usage of the Ridgecrest site, which is a dry-cooled plant (so presumably it is much more water efficient than other proposed solar sites) would still have enormous impacts on ground water.  Ridgecrest's consumption of approximately 150 acre feet a year is dwarfed by the consumption of the proposed Abengoa Solar site near Barstow and Helendale, which would consume nearly 1,077 acre-feet per year. 

If you could not make it to the 23/24 April Public Workshop, you can attend the 3rd or 4th May workshop focused on biological resources at Ridgecrest City Hall at 8AM. 

Comment from Laura about the recent public workshops:
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Desert Xpress Train Nearing Construction; Mag-Lev Still an Option?

I've written before on two competing high speed rail trains proposed for the Mojave Desert, which would connect Victorville and Las Vegas.   According to the developers of Desert Xpress, their high speed rail project is close to breaking ground and could be operating in 2013.  What is not clear is whether or not the Desert Xpress would take the place of the proposed Mag-Lev train or if they could offer duplicate mass transit service crossing the Mojave.  The Mag-Lev train reportedly received nearly 7 billion dollars in financial backing from China.  

The draft environmental impact statement for the Desert Xpress was published last year, and indicates that the route mostly stays close to Interstate 15.  However, sections of the route would veer away from the I-15 into creosote scrubland, and even cross the Ivanpah Valley in the vicinity of the proposed Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.   The route would also traverse the edges of Desert Wildlife Management Areas as well as …

Last Earth Day for Ivanpah

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, there is a lot of potential change for the Mojave Desert landscape over the next year with so many proposed industrial projects.  Ivanpah is the solar project furthest along in the California Energy Commission (CEC) certification process and it looks like it will receive it's approval, although hopefully with plenty of mitigation conditions. 

The two photos below were taken last month in Ivanpah, and include construction and survey markers already on the proposed site.   If the CEC gives it's final approval, construction equipment could me mowing this land by late Fall 2010.


Are Mega-Solar Farms Viable?

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I was looking at the Palen Solar Power Project Environmental Impact Statement, and the California Energy Commission (CEC) Staff included some maps of other major energy projects proposed for the Northeastern Colorado Desert.  Some of the projects that have been proposed by have not begun CEC review are massive, and dwarf sites that have already been deemed to be harmful to desert wilderness in California.  As the mega-sites--some of which are several times larger than LAX--begin the biological surveys we are bound to learn of potential consequences for the desert that are far greater in magnitude than we have seen with other projects covered on this blog.

Some of the solar sites well into the CEC/BLM review process that have been featured on this blog are large in their own right.  Ivanpah--located in the Eastern Mojave--will have a site footprint of approximately 3,200 acres.  The Palen project--in the Colorado Desert--will have a footprint of approximately 2,970 acres.   Ridgecrest …

LA Planning Solar Development Near Palmdale

The Board of Commissioners for the Los Angeles World Airports is considering leasing land it owns near Palmdale and Lancaster to solar energy developers.  It's not entirely clear where the land is located, but according to recent statements, it is likely near the Palmdale regional airport and US Air Force Plant 42.  Most of the land in that area would probably be considered disturbed, so perhaps prime solar siting territory.  The only problem would be if the land is actually to the east of the city where there are actually a few wildlife sanctuaries.  Much of the Western Mojave (in the vicinity of Victorville/Palmdale/Ridgecrest) is so close to population centers that the wildlife in this part of the Mojave could be considered to be under more pressure than the Eastern portion of the desert.