More Destruction Looms Over Ivanpah

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is working on the final environmental impact statements for two more solar projects in the Mojave's Ivanpah Valley, which straddles the California and Nevada border, and the documents are expected to be released this summer.  BrightSource Energy's destructive Ivanpah Solar project is nearing completion there, but First Solar's proposed Stateline and Silver State South solar projects would destroy another eight square miles of intact desert ecosystem, with the most appalling destruction to occur at the 4.8 square mile Silver State South solar site. 

I hope at least one of the projects will canceled altogether or at least substantially trimmed down.  First Solar's reputation as a steward of the environment is at stake, and the company has no reason to ignore Fish and Wildlife Service concerns; the company has successfully built large projects on already-disturbed lands with minimized environmental impacts.  These Ivanpah projects will be a mistake, but it is not clear the company recognizes the damage they may cause.

According to public comments made available by the BLM, a coalition of environmental groups (Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC, and the Sierra Club) asked First Solar to consider modifying the layout of the Stateline solar project site to avoid high quality tortoise habitat further from the dry lake bed.  It is not clear if First Solar or the BLM will consider another alternative for the project, but Stateline could put some tortoises displaced by the BrightSource Energy project in double jeopardy. 

The map below was submitted by the coalition of environmental groups to the BLM.  The red outline is the proposed slimmer project footprint that is assessed to avoid the higher quality tortoise habitat.
Over forty comments, many from readers of this blog, requested the BLM consider a more robust conservation alternative to both the Stateline Solar and Silver State South projects.  The conservation comments echoed concerns expressed by the Fish and Wildlife Service with regard to industrial-scale development in the Ivanpah Valley and the impact the destruction would have on desert tortoise habitat connectivity.  In its own comments, the Environmental Protection Agency rated the Draft EIS as not containing sufficient information.

This photo was taken from Metamorphic Hill in the Ivanpah Valley, and shows much of the creosote scrub habitat that would be destroyed for the Stateline Solar project in California.
The Fish and Wildlife Service submitted substantial comments to the BLM regarding the Draft Supplemental EIS for the Silver State South solar project, recommending the No Action alternative, and suggesting BLM extend the proposed Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) to protect the fragile tortoise habitat linkage.  The BLM's preferred alternative would have only left an insignificant habitat connectivity corridor between the Silver State South project and the Lucy Gray Mountains, which do not provide suitable habitat for the tortoise.

A cluster of Mojave yucca on the site of the proposed Silver State South project site in Nevada.


  1. Why cant a Voting, Tax paying Homeowner, be allowed to participate in the Ca. State mandate of 33% Renewable Energy by 2020, with out third party leasing ? or destroying our desert eco-systems ?

    Here is what is going on, and how we can change it with a Residential Feed in Tariff.

    "Examples of how they (and our complicit energy “experts”) have been “slowing the process” are:

    (1) Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) which create de facto caps on the deployment of renewable energies. (The Germans don’t have any RPSs. Their FIT program is open ended, the more capacity, the merrier!)

    (2) Net-metering caps. Most states only allow a small percentage of one to two percent of peak load to be net-metered. There are exceptions however. Colorado, for example, has no aggregate capacity limit. However, most states do. Net-metering, therefore, will certainly “hold back the clean energy tide.”

    (3) The third party leasing rent-to-own outfits like Sungevity, but more importantly, Solarcity, which just went public with an IPO, fight tooth and nail to protect scarce capacity carveouts (from the state RPSs) so as to bolster their chosen business models as the expense of all others. The same goes for the utility-scale folks. The in-fighting, due in part to the small de facto caps of the RPSs, have significantly slowed the deployment of renewables in the U.S.

    (4) Most importantly is how we connect distributed renewable energies to the grid in the U.S., the most salient difference between the American net-metering program and the German feed-in tariff is that net-metering is *retail* energy whereas the FIT is *wholesale* energy. Thus, net-metering does little more than offset onsite loads and in the process it shifts the rate burdens of lost customers onto other ratepayers. Those rate burdens also include all of the utility’s overhead as well since compensation is at the retail rate. A FIT, on the other hand, as wholesale energy feeds the energy directly into the electric grid, and because it is must take wholesale energy it must be used first, and in many cases it will off set more expensive energies found on the grid, such as peaker plant power,spinning reserves and so forth saving rate payers money." Bob Tregilus

    The Feed in Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in Renewable Energy, whether homeowner, small business, or large utility, is able to sell that electricity. It is mandated by the State to produce 33% R E by 2020

    FIT policies support all renewable technologies including:
    Photovoltaics (PV)
    Solar thermal
    Fuel cells
    Tidal and wave power.

    California law does not allow Homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems

    Allowing homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems, is a true capitalistic tool, that will give us the potential to challenge the utility monopolies, democratize energy generation and transform millions of homes and small business into energy generators, during Sandy, Solar homes where not utilized to their full potential, because there was no disconnect and or transfer switch, to turn off incoming grid and start in home Solar power. how comforting it would be, to have mandatory transfer switches on all residential and small business renewable energy installations.

    We need a National Feed in Tariff, for Renewable Energy, with laws that level the playing field, this petition starts with homeowners in California.

    Japan, Germany, and our state of Hawaii, will pay residents between 21- 47 cents per kilowatt hour, here in California they will pay a commercial FiT in a few counties at 17 cents per kilowatt hour, No Residential FiT and they wont let us oversize our Residential Renewable Energy systems.

    Want to change our Feed in Tariff? Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition ?


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