Take Action to Save The Desert

Click here to sign the petition by Solar Done Right calling for a responsible renewable energy future. As this photo by Chris Clarke shows, energy companies have already begun to bulldoze ecologically intact desert wildlands to make way for massive solar facilities .  Our clean energy future does not need to involve sacrificing more of our natural treasures. We have a long history of destroying wild landscapes to generate electricity.  Oil spills killing marine life, natural gas wells fragmenting sagebrush habitat and spoiling our groundwater, and coal plants spewing emissions that warm our planet.  We are rightfully looking to renewable energy sources as a better alternative, but we cannot afford to sacrifice more wildlands to energy.  As of December, the Bureau of Land Management had received applications for wind and solar facilities on 1,659 square miles of public land in just California, and yet that would still not be enough to meet the State's energy needs.  We nee

Ivanpah Conservation Initiative Presented to BLM Officials

Basin and Range Watch members met with officials from the Bureau of Land Management's California and Nevada state offices earlier this month to present the proposed Ivanpah Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), which is also supported by the Desert Tortoise Council and Desert Protective Council.  The ACEC is needed to protect biological and cultural resources that would be imperiled by additional solar energy development in the Ivanpah Valley, including a connectivity corridor for the endangered desert tortoise.  As human-induced  climate change challenges desert ecosystems, the genetic connectivity and healthy habitat offered by the Ivanpah Valley will be critical to the survival of many desert species. The productive meeting with BLM, which took place in Reno,  represents potential reprieve for the beleaguered valley in the northeastern Mojave Desert as a coalition of smaller groups and concerned citizens speak up for a smarter renewable energy policy that does not

How Much Land Will We Industrialize?

As of December, the Bureau of Land Management had approved or received applications for utility-scale solar and wind energy facilities on 1,659 square miles of public land in California.  These projects are massive in scale, requiring tons of steel and concrete , and the bulldozing of ecologically intact lands.  Yet if all of the proposals are built they will provide less than half of California's energy demand.  Similar levels of destruction will have to take place in other states to meet their energy demand. It is hard to imagine all of these beautiful landscapes being destroyed in the name of "green" energy, especially when we have enough rooftops , parking lots, and other brownfields in our cities to support solar panels. What would you rather find beyond coal?  Rooftop solar or industrial destruction of our landscapes? Just how big is 1,659 square miles?  The red shaded boxes in the Google maps below each show an area 1,659 square miles in size. View 1,6

Raw Materials: Hidden Carbon Costs of Utility-Scale Renewable Energy

No energy source is without its impacts, but considering how much steel and concrete is needed to construct utility-scale solar and wind facilities, we may be adding more greenhouse gas emissions than necessary.   When most people in the United States think about clean energy, they picture facilities that are inherently not green -- solar facilities in the desert or gigantic wind turbines on hillsides tethered to our cities by hundreds of miles of costly transmission lines.   These industrial facilities require amounts of materials and construction processes that make them unsustainable choices to replace dirty coal.  When it comes to clean energy, nothing beats the efficiency and "green" of distributed energy , such as solar panels on rooftops or over parking lots, which require less of the materials that require carbon emissions to produce and transport. Take a look at BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the northeastern Mojave Desert,

Desert Astronomy is Unbeatable!

Not long after I started this blog I came across a photographers amazing catch of a Geminid meteor streaking across the Mojave Desert's night sky in 2009.  The photograph was taken in 2009, and can be viewed at this link .  A year later,  a videographer captured some amazing scenes of the Geminid meteor shower over America's desert landscapes, including Joshua Tree National Park. Enjoy: Fleeting Light: The High Desert and the Geminid Meteor Shower from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo .

BLM Continues Review of Searchlight Wind Project

The BLM later this month may release a preliminary environmental impact review for Duke Energy's proposed wind project near Searchlight, Nevada, according to Basin and Range Watch .  The project's monstrous proportions would industrialize 38 square miles of desert landscapes with up to 140 wind turbines.  Each turbine would be over 400 feet tall -- that is over 100 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.  The turbines would pose a threat to hawks, eagles and other bird life in the area, and would require miles of new roads etched into the valleys and hillsides.   You can find beautiful photos of the area, including wildlife and landscapes, at this website put up by Basin and Range Watch. This graphic shows the height of the Statue of Liberty compared to a wind turbine that is roughly the same size as proposed for the Searchlight Wind project.  Graphic from windfarmfactsutah . The amount of land that will be transformed by the project is difficult to fathom.  The Google Ea

Photos of Solar Done Wrong

Despite a UCLA study indicating that the County of Los Angeles has enough suitable rooftop space for solar panels to meet local energy demand, the State of California and Bureau of Land Management are permitting unprecedented destruction of America's desert landscapes for utility-scale solar facilities hundreds of miles away from urban areas.    One of those projects is First Solar's Desert Sunlight facility that will cover nearly 6 square miles of ecologically intact public lands right next to Joshua Tree National Park. The Desert Sunlight project would generate about 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity.  For comparison, California's peak electricity demand has reached nearly 52,800 MW.  Meeting our energy needs with projects like Desert Sunlight would require over 100 more of such destructive facilities. And then repeat this destruction in every other state to meet their energy demands.  This is madness and simply unsustainable. Author Chris Clarke recently had the