Sierra Club Turns 120 Years Young

The Sierra Club was founded 120 years ago on 28 May 1892.  A year later, the first volume of the Sierra Club Bulletin detailed one member's account of a trip from the Mojave Desert mining town of Daggett, California, to Furnace Creek in what would eventually become Death Valley National Park in a piece titled "Through Death Valley". After departing Daggett and enduring a rough journey on the first day, the member described the timeless experience of waking up to a cool desert dawn, refreshed from a good night's sleep under the stars: "The next morning dawned bright and clear. As I threw off my blankets my first impression was that I was in a perfect paradise. All about us were the beautiful yuccas, stretching their spiny arms in all directions, while beneath them was a perfect carpet of gorgeously colored flowers, some like white satin, others a beautiful blue, while from every bit of shaded ground, like golden daisies, nodded a beautiful yellow flower (Anisc

Neon Desert

I was struck by the bright colors of the lichen on the lava rock, and a blooming chia (Salvia columbariae) in the foreground. This was taken at the cinder cones in the Mojave National Preserve.

Sierra Club Lobbying for Wind Industry; Wind Industry Lobbying Against Wildlife

It's an odd situation when the Sierra Club provides unconditional support to an industry that describes wildlife and conservation goals as "obstacles," lobbies to weaken the environmental laws we have fought hard to institute and enforce, and enjoys comfortable access to a White House promoting an "all of the above" energy policy that is taking its toll on our climate and our public lands.  In a blog post titled "Americans Agree With President Obama: Wind Is the Way," Sierra Club Director of Clean Energy Dave Hamilton calls for the renewal of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) that has driven the wind industry's expansion onto wildlands in recent years,  yet the wind industry simultaneously ignores the Club's conservation concerns and dismisses guidance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to avoid impacts on protected and endangered bats and birds. The wind industry is not as toxic as coal, but it has about as much regard for conse

Renewable Energy Industry Didn't Anticipate Dust in Desert

Apparently the renewable energy industry did not realize that when you bulldoze dozens of square miles of intact desert habitat, you remove the topsoil that keeps down wind-born dust.  First Solar's Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 (AVSR 1) project is currently delayed due to dust issues and an electrical permitting issue, according to Greentech Media .  First Solar also apparently violated air quality standards near Joshua Tree National Park when the construction for its Desert Sunlight project kicked up clouds of dust. Separately, Pattern Energy appears to be in violation of the rules as its construction crews generate a significant amount of dust for a wind energy project, according to Basin and Range Watch .   Dust clouds caused by construction may not seem like a significant problem to some, but the haze is a quality of life issue for the local communities in the desert, and with hundreds of square miles of planned solar and wind projects in the desert, the problem is likely to

It Passed!

To update you on yesterday's post, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) passed the proposal to nearly double the number of rooftop solar installations that can benefit from net metering, where utility companies fairly credit the customers for solar energy they generate for themselves.  Like I wrote yesterday, this is just the start. CPUC voted to pass a measure that keeps rooftop solar viable for another year or so. But we have not yet begun to understand the benefits and efficiencies of ditching our old energy model.  Rooftop solar means fewer transmission lines, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and giving pristine wildlands to future generations, not energy companies.  I am looking forward to the next CPUC vote to expand rooftop solar.

Important Rooftop Solar Decision Due Tomorrow

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is expected to vote tomorrow (24 May) on a proposal to essentially increase the number of utility customers who can benefit from net metering, where the utility credits the customer for the full retail value of energy their panels produce.  If the proposal is passed, the number of net metered solar installations would nearly double.  The Sierra Club has been a vocal proponent of the proposal, and over 60,000 residents spoke up in favor.  Rooftop solar panels happily basking in the sun, generating energy without requiring the destruction of wildlands. As a recent Huffington Post piece mentioned, rooftop solar is not a tool for the rich and famous. The majority of rooftop solar installations have been in zip codes with median incomes.  Rooftop solar also generates local jobs, and reduces the need for toxic "peaker plants" which fire up to generate energy during peak demand hours and pollute our air. If the proposal pa

Ocotillo Wind Project Begins Habitat Destruction

A Federal judge yesterday denied a petition by the Quechan tribe to halt construction of a destructive wind energy project in the Colorado Desert just south of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California.  The nearly 16 square mile project is expected to destroy cultural sites of significance to the tribe, fragment and destroy habitat, and kill bats, raptors and other birds with 112 turbines, each towering over 400 feet tall.  The project will feed energy customers over 60 miles away in San Diego, where conservationists argue rooftop solar can be installed instead of relying on the remote wind project.  San Diego has already reached over 4,500 rooftop solar installations, and California has installed over 1,000 megawatts of rooftop solar  --  over 3 times the amount that will be generated by the massive Ocotillo Express wind project. And that's just the beginning of California's distributed generation potential.   Hopefully our clean energy future will focus more on