Judge Halts Tessera Solar Project

U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns granted an injunction this week that prevents Tessera Solar LLC from moving forward with its Imperial Valley Solar project in response to a lawsuit filed by the Quechan Tribe against the Department of the Interior.  The Imperial project would have destroyed over 9 square miles of Sonoran desert habitat that also held over 400 sites of cultural significance to the Quechan Tribe, including burial grounds. Judge Burns--who was appointed to the bench by President Bush in 2003--chided the Department of the Interior  for "gliding" over its statutory responsibility to consult with the Quechan Tribal government before approving the project, which would be built on public land and would have been awarded taxpayer-backed financing.  Judge Burns' order underscored the shallow nature of what the Department presented as evidence of "consultations."  The order summarized letters that the Department sent to the Quechan Tribe, dismissing

Ivanpah Valley: Before And After

Basin and Range Watch has posted photographs of the Ivanpah Valley, before and after BrightSource Energy began bulldozing old growth desert vegetation there.  I have copied a couple of the photos below, but check out the Basin and Range Watch site for a full report and aerial photos.  Sadly, these photos only represent the initial phase of construction, and several more square miles will be destroyed for the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System.  During this initial phase construction workers have displaced 40 endangered desert tortoises. You can read a previous post on another energy company's plans to add to the destruction of the Ivanpah Valley.  First Solar Inc plans to built two massive facilities on nearly 15 square miles of prime tortoise habitat-- the Stateline and Silver State solar projects. Photo from Basin and Range Watch Photo from Basin and Range Watch website

Important Week for America's Deserts

Stay tuned this week for a few policy and legal developments that will have an impact on our southwestern deserts, including the Mojave. 1.) Solar Programmatic Draft EIS :  The Department of the Interior is expected to release the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for its program to rapidly site and permit massive solar facilities on public land, mostly in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts.  Once the draft EIS is available,  probably by the end of the week, the Department of the Interior will accept public comments.  One of the key components to watch for are the boundaries of its proposed "solar energy zones," where utility-scale energy projects will be encouraged.  The initial "study zones" proposed late last year included ecologically important sites near the Cady Mountains in the Mojave, and throughout the Chuckwalla Valley in the Sonoran Desert.  Projects already approved for these areas by the Federal government and State of California threaten to disp

California To Begin Charging For Sun Delivery

In Governor Schwarzenegger's weekly radio address, he complained about the length of time required to permit the Sunrise Powerlink -- a two billion dollar transmission line that is intended to deliver solar energy from California's Imperial Valley to San Diego.  What he neglected to mention is that the Sunrise Powerlink will not carry energy from "green" sources, and it will cost the ratepayer more money.   Yes, utility-scale solar energy will reduce carbon emissions overall, but America's southwestern deserts--treasured for recreation, wildlife, tranquility, and our cultural heritage--will be given away to energy companies, along with taxpayers' money, ignoring a cheaper option. Not So "Green" The Governor boasted about his office's progress in approving nearly 5000 MW of renewable energy.  Unfortunately, most of the utility-scale projects that his office encouraged through the California Energy Commission (CEC) permitting process will bul

Calico and Imperial Solar Projects in Comatose State

Dublin-based NTR has decided to hold off on the Calico and Imperial Solar power projects indefinitely.  NTR is the parent company for Tessera Solar LLC, which received approval from the California Energy Commission and Department of the Interior to build the two utility-scale solar projects--Calico and Imperial--on a combined total of over 19 square miles of public land. According to the Irish Times , NTR did not have the financial resources available to move the projects forward, but could float stock at a later date that would bring the necessary investment to the company.  The article did not suggest a timeline for when they would reconsider moving forward with the two projects. Citizens concerned about Tessera Solar LLC's business decisions pointed out that the Calico Solar power project would destroy prime desert tortoise habitat, killing or displacing at least 22 desert tortoises and destroying one of the few remaining populations of the rare white-margined beardtongue wi

First Solar, Inc Adds to Destruction of Ivanpah Ecosystem

First Solar Inc. is proposing to build two projects in the Ivanpah Valley which will have significant cumulative impacts on plants and wildlife in the northeastern Mojave.  Although one of First Solar's projects has already received partial approval, the company's second project can expect intense opposition. Earlier this year, BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System (ISEGS) was approved for construction by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and California Energy Commission (CEC).  The ISEGS project alone will destroy 5.6 square miles and is expected to kill or displace well over 40 desert tortoises, but there are other projects planned that could continue to deprive the Ivanpah Valley of its threatened plant and wildlife.  First Solar, Inc. is proposing to build its "Stateline" project on approximately 3.4 square miles of public land just north of the ISEGS site.  An initial study conducted by First Solar observed 27 tortoises on the sit

Alert: Take Action for CDPA 2010

According to the latest news from Capitol Hill, the current omnibus lands bill (a combination of many proposed conservation bills into one piece of legislation) does not currently include the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (S. 2921) , or any wilderness designations in California's deserts.    Senator Feinstein introduced the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 (CDPA 2010) late last year, but it has not yet been reported from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  CDPA 2010 is unlikely to be included in an omnibus lands bill until it has passed from the committee, but time is running out. Call or e-mail Senator Feinstein's staff to urge them to work to include the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 in the final omnibus bill.  Otherwise, the chances of wilderness protection in California's deserts next year are dim.   CDPA 2010 would set aside over over 1 million acres of pristine desert for conservation, including areas along Historic Route 66,