Solar Energy On the Wrong Path

Thousand of rooftops in our cities bake under the California sun, and hundreds of thousands of acres of already-disturbed land identified by EPA's RE-powering America's Land program sit idle -- perfect places for solar panels.  BrightSource Energy LLC, which portrays itself as an innovative solar energy company, ignored these options and decided to begin bulldozing 5.6 square miles of pristine desert habitat on public land (using 1.4 billion dollars of taxpayer-backed financing). A video recently released on You Tube (below) of crews clearing old growth desert for BrightSource's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System in the northeastern Mojave Desert reveals a different kind of company.  This is a business that is not worthy of the "green" reputation bestowed upon it by those who only believe in protecting nature when she is not standing in the way of profit. Desert shrubs and Yuccas that took hundreds of years to grow--symbolic of nature's persevearance

Citizen Coalition Criticizes Obama Energy Proposal

A coalition of energy experts, biologists and concerned citizens known as Solar Done Right issued a report Monday questioning why Washington wants to sacrifice hundreds of square miles of public land and billions of taxpayer dollars to solar energy companies instead of encouraging rooftop solar.   The report is available on Solar Done Right's website .  Solar Done Right's report is a response to the policy proposals contained in the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Draft PEIS).  The Draft PEIS was issued jointly by the Departments of Interior and Energy last year, and seeks to establish a policy of offering over 22 million acres of mostly pristine desert habitat for development to solar energy companies .  The Draft PEIS fails to consider alternatives to sacrificing public land,  such as implementing policies that encourage distributed generation (aka rooftop solar).    This blog previously commented on the inadequacies of the Draft PEIS .  Solar Do

On Green Jobs

The massive solar power projects that threaten to destroy public land throughout America's southwestern deserts are coated in economic promise.  The Obama administration included loan guarantees and grants as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act in order boost renewable energy generation, and Congress extended the Treasury Grant Program that funnels taxpayers' money to renewable energy companies.   In order to justify this money, the projects are promoted by politicians as "green" job creation engines, but the impact of these jobs is inflated and misleading.  Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger touted the need for green jobs in his recent opinion piece in the Atlantic Monthly, and large-scale solar projects on public land feature prominently in the President's energy blueprint.   The energy companies promise to turn around the recession if they are given unfettered access to public land and money.  Tessera Solar LLC CEO Robert Lukefahr complained

Destruction of the Ivanpah Valley

Basin and Range Watch posted new photos of the construction of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System in the northeastern Mojave Desert.  Taxpayers' money is being used to provide 1.4 billion dollars in financing to the project, and American citizens are giving up over 5 square miles of public land to the company.  According to the draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement , the Department of Interior expects the solar energy industry to bulldoze over 300 square miles of desert habitat -- multiply the destruction in the photos below by 150 if you want to imagine what our energy policy will do to our public land. The destruction in this aerial photo represents only about a third of the total project.  Photo from Basin and Range Watch . Bulldozers scraped away once pristine desert habitat.  The project is estimated to displace or kill nearly 140 endangered desert tortoises, according to the BLM .  Photo from Basin and Range Watch . Check

Ivanpah Solar Project May Displace or Kill Hundreds of Tortoises

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) now estimates that BrightSource Energy LLC's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System (ISEGS) could displace or kill as many as 140 desert adult tortoises, and hundreds of juveniles which are harder to detect during construction.    When the Department of Interior and California Energy Commission initially approved the project, located in the northeastern Mojave Desert, they expected to encounter 38 tortoises on the site.  However, according to the monthly biological compliance report, the construction crews working on the first phase of the project (only a third of the total project) had already displaced 49 tortoises as of February, strongly suggesting that initial biological surveys underestimated the potential biological impact of the project.  The project's destructive impacts leave many asking why BrightSource Energy chose to build its facility on pristine habitat when thousands of acres of already-disturbed land and open rooftops await

A better response to the Atlantic Monthly

Chris Clarke over at Coyote Crossing posted an even better response to the Atlantic Monthly article I blogged about yesterday.  Chris deftly deconstructs Alexis Madrigal's article: We’re one 22-word sentence into Madrigal’s piece, and I’ve spent almost four hundred words explaining what’s wrong with it. Given that the full piece runs to more than 3,300 words — and is at that only an excerpt of an upcoming book — the prospect of trying to tease some sense out of Madrigal’s writing is daunting. ...and tackles Madrigal's insidious attempt to paint Big Solar as a savior and redefine environmentalism in favor of industry: The key is Madrigal’s misleading quote of ecologist Erle Ellis in a 2009 Wired Op-Ed. Ellis’ point was to attack the persistent view of nature and humanity, wilderness and society as somehow mutually exclusive. Ellis’ Op-Ed was deliberately provocative, hyperbolic even; there is much in it with which one could disagree. But it is in no way a call to pa

In Response to the Atlantic Monthly

The Atlantic Monthly published an article today lamenting that "fledgling" solar energy companies face opposition from environmentalists in the quest to pave over the Mojave Desert with massive solar facilities and transmission lines.  The article ridicules our concern over endangered species, and demands an evolution in environmentalism so that we focus on human needs, and abandon what it describes as an outdated focus on conservation of nature far from humans. The article sadly supports an old paradigm in energy generation, where companies are given unfettered access to public lands and we continue to pay inflated rates for electricity.  It ignores the real potential to cut greenhouse gasses by building distributed generation (" rooftop solar ") or building larger facilities on already-disturbed land.  The EPA already identified ample disturbed land for renewable energy projects as part of its RE-powering America's Land program, and Germany is gener