Sierra Club Joins Call for Mandatory Wind Energy Guidelines

The Sierra Club informed the Department of Interior in January that it supports mandatory guidelines for the wind energy industry that would protect wildlife,  strengthening its previously expressed position that only favored voluntary guidelines, according to the March issue of the Desert Report .  The move is a positive sign that the Sierra Club hopefully recognizes that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the destructive potential of any energy source -- whether that is coal, natural gas, wind or solar -- and that the conservation community should protect our natural resources instead of facilitating their destruction for the benefit of corporate profit.  The Sierra Club's letter  follows a petition submitted by the American Bird Conservancy in December asking Washington to establish a mandatory permitting system that will hold the wind energy industry accountable to environmental law. According to the Sierra Club letter to Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar: ".

Nopah Range

The Nopah Range at sunrise in the Mojave Desert, east of Death Valley National Park.

BrightSource Energy Complains About Due Diligence

BrightSource Energy, while receiving bad press for displacing or killing over 160 desert tortoises at its Ivanpah Solar project, is now complaining that the California Energy Commission (CEC) and US Fish and Wildlife Service are requiring it to conduct thorough bird and bat surveys for its proposed Rio Mesa Solar project.  BrightSource on 27 February filed a document with the CEC objecting to the avian surveys, part of its ongoing protest of the environmental review process.   Officials and citizens have expressed profound concern because the Rio Mesa Solar facility would be built along the Colorado River in a key bird migration corridor known as the Pacific Flyway.  The facility would also be located near the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge , which hosts 288 species of birds.  A past study has indicated high rates of avian mortality at power tower solar facilities, and State and Federal officials are keen to understand whether or not Federally protected raptors and migratory bird

More Hurdles for First Solar

Before First Solar commits to building solar projects in the Ivanpah Valley, they should take a close look at BrightSource Energy's experience there.  The Los Angeles Times today posted an insightful article on the costs of building a solar energy project on some of the best desert tortoise habitat in the Mojave Desert.  Focused on BrightSource Energy's solar project in the Ivanpah Valley, the LA Times describes communications in which BrightSource Energy complains about the costs of relocating tortoises, saying "[t]his truly could kill the project".  Yet it was BrightSource's choice to ignore the warnings of biologists and build on a site noted for the relative abundance of tortoises. The alarm bells are still ringing and the red lights are flashing, but First Solar is proceeding defiantly with the environmental review process for the Stateline and Silver State South solar projects in the Ivanpah Valley.  Conservationists warn that those project sites also cont

Student Art Project Depicts Unwise Burden on Desert Wildlands

Biologist have expressed concern that the scale of proposed utility-scale renewable energy development in America's southwestern deserts could push various species of plants and wildlife to the brink by destroying or fragmenting large swaths of otherwise ecologically intact wildlands. This energy model ignores the opportunities to build on already-disturbed lands or focus on distributed generation -- such as rooftop solar -- and will ironically compound the challenges wildlife will face as a result of human-induced climate change.  The desert tortoise is an icon of this quandary, and it caught the attention of high school student Halle Rayn Kohn.  In a mixed media piece of art using acrylic paint, sandpaper, and a collage of pictures and magazine cut-outs, Halle's art depicts a species burdened by human energy demands. An image of the original art work, used with permission from the artist.  The piece was part of an AP Studio Art project in California. The piece was display

A contrast of energy choices

Congratulations to Solar Mosaic and Navajo Nation artist Shonto Begay for taking a step into a clean energy future that does not involve the destruction of wildlands.  Solar Mosaic successfully "crowd-funded" enough money to install solar panels on the home of Shonto Begay, who lives near the Peadbody Coal Mine in Arizona.  Shonto's new solar panels will represent democratic energy -- clean and local -- generated at the point of use.  No need for massive new power plants on desert habitat, or expensive transmission lines across beautiful wildlands.  The Peabody Coal Mine  -- like any other large corporate power plant that disrespects nature -- is a destructive relic of an old energy model. You can read more about Solar Mosaic's success here , and check out Shonto's art here .

Put a Halt to Illegal Dumping

Illegal dumping is a problem on desert lands, especially those close to the urban areas throughout the southwest.  Growing up in the western Mojave, I know the areas around the Victor Valley and Antelope Valley have dealt with illegal dumping for a while.  Instead of taking trash to a landfill or other materials to proper recycling centers, a small minority of people would rather trash our open space, often taking a pick-up full of trash a half-mile or so down a dirt road to discard their waste in the desert, showing complete disrespect for the desert and their neighbors.  Y ou can report illegal dumping to county authorities ( Los Angeles County , San Bernardino County , or Kern County .)  You can also contact municipal code enforcement offices that might have jurisdiction over parcels of land within city limits, such as this site for Apple Valley Code Enforcement . This illegal dump site was discovered northeast of Saddelback Butte State Park in the western Mojave Desert between