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Southern Nevada Wildlands Face Industrial Transformation

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By 2020, Nevadans may not recognize the once open wildlands they enjoy outside of Las Vegas, as renewable energy corporations backed by Wall Street have proposed to industrialize roughly 410 square miles of desert habitat in nearly every scenic vista within an hour's drive of the metropolis.
A slew of solar companies have applied, or have been approved to construct 19 solar facilities in desert valleys, each consuming several square miles of land.  Wind companies, on the other hand, are exploring options to build 6 different facilities, and the average project would fragment and industrialize over 27 square miles of desert mountains and foothills of southern Nevada.  Transmission lines constitute the third greatest threat to wild lands, as utility companies plan to add dozens of miles of new transmission lines across the region to connect new solar and wind projects to the grid. Doubling Vegas' Sprawl If all of the projects are constructed,  energy companies will have destroyed …

BrightSource Energy's Plans to Limit Environmental Review Meets Resistance

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In an odd legal move, BrightSource Energy is demanding the California Energy Commission (CEC) correct "errors" in the preliminary staff assessment of the company's Hidden Hills solar project.  BrightSource's motion to alter the staff assessment would limit environmental analysis in such a way that improves the company's chances of approval, despite serious concerns about the project's water demand in the overdrawn Pahrump Valley groundwater basin.  The move drew sharp rebuke from the CEC staff and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The company's motion suggests they are worried the CEC will either select the No Action Alternative or require the project to use a different technology, such as photovoltaic solar panels.  Among the specific requests in the motion, BrightSource Energy asks that the staff assessment 1.) define the project's objectives in a way to meet the company's own preferred criteria, 2.) limit analysis of alternatives to technolo…

A Member of the Desert Choir

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Desert wildlife is elusive. You'll see all of the signs of wildlife -- tracks, scat, burrows, etc. -- but you often don't see the animals.  When I am lucky enough to be enjoying a trek in the desert, I always hear plenty of chatty birds, especially in the morning and around sunset.  So it was delightful to read Chris Clarke's piece on cactus wrens, which included a video of this bird's characteristic call.

Real Wastelands

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If you ask me, rooftops are the real wastelands.  Vast open spaces in our cities, just waiting for another purpose in life.


YIMBY

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Solar panels do not need pristine desert to thrive. They do just as well on your rooftop.  If you own a rooftop, consider the solar leasing option.  Solar City and Sungevity offer rooftop solar panels with no upfront costs to much of the southwestern United States.  If you are not ready for rooftop solar, then please turn off lights, TVs, computers and other appliances when you do not need them. Energy efficiency is the best way to cut our dependence on fossil fuels and save wildlands. Change starts in your backyard.

TV Series Features Desert Landscapes

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This American Land and the Pew Charitable Trust featured desert activists Tom Budlong of the Sierra Club, and Laurel Williams of the California Wilderness Coalition, among others, who explain why the desert is special to them, the local communities, and visitors from far and wide.

Pew made this available on YouTube.  Check it out!

Calico Solar Project: Corporation Shows Contempt for Environmental Concerns

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Despite requests by an array of environmental groups to prevent destruction of critical desert habitat in the Pisgah Valley in the central Mojave Desert, the Department of Interior and K Road Power continue to move forward with plans to permit and build the Calico Solar project.  The project footprint has only been slightly redesigned, but would still destroy at least 6 square miles of desert habitat for photovoltaic solar panels -- the same technology that can be deployed on rooftops or already-disturbed lands.  The public lands targeted for the proposed project site host a diverse array of birds, reptiles, mammals, and plants, prompting concern from desert conservationists that the massive project will block wildlife connectivity across the central Mojave.

Modifications Miss the Point
The modified layout of the Calico Solar project provides a 158 acre "habitat connectivity" zone through the center of the project -- that is less than a quarter square mile of total habitat…