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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 …

Calico Solar Project "Cut in Half"

There is a lot of press on the California Energy Commission's (CEC) preliminary approval of Tessera Solar LLC's Calico Solar power project.  The press is portraying Tessera Solar's project as being halved by government authorities or "crazy hippies" who are trying to save the desert tortoise instead of building a larger solar power plant.  What most people just now entering the debate do not realize is that Tessera Solar's project is actually proposed for public land, and will receive taxpayer-backed financing in the form of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds.

Plenty of commentators will have you believe that Tessera Solar is being wronged by the government, but consider that the company is basically dependent on government handouts to make a profit, and its profit model is based on bulldozing pristine American wilderness.   And to add insult to injury, we could generate solar energy from the rooftops of our homes, parking lots, or the tops of comme…

CEC Requesting Reliability Data from Tessera Solar

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The California Energy Commission (CEC) requested that Tessera Solar LLC submit detailed logs on the reliability of its "Suncatcher" solar technology,  potentially reflecting doubt about the effectiveness of the company's proposals.  According to transcripts of a 20 September CEC hearing, the CEC Staff believed that Tessera Solar should be required to submit reliability data in order to be allowed to proceed with its Imperial Valley Solar project, which is proposed for over 6,000 acres of California Desert habitat.   Tessera Solar is the same company that is also proposing to bulldoze another 4,600 acres of the Mojave Desert for the Calico Solar power project.

Both the Calico Solar and Imperial Valley Solar projects would utilize the "Suncatcher" technology.  Each Suncatcher resembles a giant satellite dish that would harness solar energy.  This technology is not as tested as parabolic technology selected for other solar projects since the Suncatchers involve mo…

Ivanpah Valley Video Available Online

You may have read my post on an educational protest held at the site for the proposed Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System, which will destroy thousands of acres of old growth desert habitat.  Chris Clarke posted a video on his website consisting of interviews of desert experts who provide an overview of the resources and natural heritage that will be lost.  If you were unable to visit the site, I highly recommend checking out this well made video.

Mojave Desert Land Trust Reaches Goal!

Congratulations to the Mojave Desert Land Trust for closing escrow on the Quail Mountain property located adjacent to the Joshua Tree National Park.  The Land Trust's efforts will ensure that this valuable wildlife corridor will maintain a healthy ecosystem in Joshua Tree National Park and surrounding desert habitat.  The Mojave Desert Land Trust's grassroots efforts and community awareness is a valuable part of citizen efforts to preserve beautiful open space in California's deserts for future generations.

You can also read Morongo Bill's write-up on this good news!

Tessera Solar Project Could Kill 18 Tortoises for 60 MW

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The California Energy Commission's (CEC) preliminary approval of Tessera Solar's Calico Solar power project would permit the company to build in some of the most sensitive and highest quality desert tortoise habitat available in the area.   The CEC Commissioners could have chosen a less destructive layout that avoids the highest quality habitat, but instead approved the more destructive layout, known as "Scenario 5.5."  For 60 extra megawatts, the CEC is permitting the potential loss of 18 extra tortoises.

Two Calico Solar Layouts Presented to the CEC

Scenario 5.5:
Megawatts: 663.5 MWAcres: 4,613Estimated tortoise disturbance: 22 tortoises (not including tortoise eggs)Scenario 6:
Megawatts: 603.9Acres: 4,244Estimated tortoise disturbance:  4 tortoisesIf given final approval, "Scenario 5.5" would kill or displace at least 22 desert tortoises, according to a US Fish and Wildlife Service estimate.   Scenario 6--the slightly smaller layout--would only displace or k…

Save Sea Turtles; Kill Desert Tortoises

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The California Energy Commission (CEC) made two decisions this past week that will contribute significantly to the decline of the ecological health of the Mojave Desert.   In the first decision, the CEC gave final approval to BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System.  In the second, the CEC issued a proposed decision to approve the Calico Solar power project, subject to a 30 day public comment period.  Unless the CEC is persuaded to rethink its position during the comment period, the Calico project will be approved.

The CEC Presiding Members determined that despite the significant ecological damage these large solar sites would impart on the Mojave Desert, Californians thirst for "green" energy is more important.  The CEC brushed aside pleas that solar panels can be deployed on roof tops, or that these large solar plants would be better off if they were put on already disturbed agricultural land.  Instead, bulldozers will begin cutting into ancient de…