BrightSource Energy's Plans in Trouble--Buyer's Remorse?

BrightSource Energy is offering to reduce its Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System project by 12% in response to concerns about its environmental impacts, but will that be enough?  The company already exceeded the "take" limit established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service since it has displaced at least 49 endangered desert tortoises, as of February.  The project was only approved to displace 36.  According to High Country News, a second tortoise died on the site from heat distress as it attempted to return to its now-destroyed burrow in a bulldozed area of the project.

The company now expects to displace or kill at least 140 tortoises if all three phases of the approved project are completed.  BrightSource Energy's 12% footprint reduction is likely inadequate, and an official interviewed by High Country News stated that the US Fish and Wildlife Service reserves the right to call "jeopardy" (limiting the project) if the current review determines that it will have significant impacts on the endangered species.  Construction on the site was mostly halted as of mid-April.

BrightSource Energy fought its way onto the 5.6 square mile plot of public land on pristine desert tortoise habitat and won hasty environmental approvals from the Department of Interior and California Energy Commission last year.  Perhaps now BrightSource Energy executives are asking themselves why they did not invest in distributed generation, or a solar project on land that is already disturbed and of no ecological value, such as the Westlands Solar Park--a 30,000 acre area once used for farming. 

A tortoise emerging from a burrow in the Mojave Desert.


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