BrightSource Energy's Plans to Limit Environmental Review Meets Resistance

In an odd legal move, BrightSource Energy is demanding the California Energy Commission (CEC) correct "errors" in the preliminary staff assessment of the company's Hidden Hills solar project .  BrightSource's motion to alter the staff assessment would limit environmental analysis in such a way that improves the company's chances of approval, despite serious concerns about the project's water demand in the overdrawn Pahrump Valley groundwater basin.  The move drew sharp rebuke from the CEC staff and the Center for Biological Diversity. The company's motion suggests they are worried the CEC will either select the No Action Alternative or require the project to use a different technology, such as photovoltaic solar panels.  Among the specific requests in the motion, BrightSource Energy asks that the staff assessment 1.) define the project's objectives in a way to meet the company's own preferred criteria, 2.) limit analysis of alternatives to techn

A Member of the Desert Choir

Desert wildlife is elusive. You'll see all of the signs of wildlife -- tracks, scat, burrows, etc. -- but you often don't see the animals.  When I am lucky enough to be enjoying a trek in the desert, I always hear plenty of chatty birds, especially in the morning and around sunset.  So it was delightful to read Chris Clarke's piece on cactus wrens , which included a video of this bird's characteristic call.

Real Wastelands

If you ask me, rooftops are the real wastelands.  Vast open spaces in our cities, just waiting for another purpose in life. [Click on image to expand]


Solar panels do not need pristine desert to thrive. They do just as well on your rooftop.   If you own a rooftop, consider the solar leasing option.  Solar City and Sungevity offer rooftop solar panels with no upfront costs to much of the southwestern United States.  If you are not ready for rooftop solar, then please turn off lights, TVs, computers and other appliances when you do not need them. Energy efficiency is the best way to cut our dependence on fossil fuels and save wildlands. Change starts in your backyard.

TV Series Features Desert Landscapes

This American Land and the Pew Charitable Trust featured desert activists Tom Budlong of the Sierra Club, and Laurel Williams of the California Wilderness Coalition, among others, who explain why the desert is special to them, the local communities, and visitors from far and wide. Pew made this available on YouTube.  Check it out!

Calico Solar Project: Corporation Shows Contempt for Environmental Concerns

Despite requests by an array of environmental groups to prevent destruction of critical desert habitat in the Pisgah Valley in the central Mojave Desert, the Department of Interior and K Road Power continue to move forward with plans to permit and build the Calico Solar project.  The project footprint has only been slightly redesigned, but would still destroy at least 6 square miles of desert habitat for photovoltaic solar panels -- the same technology that can be deployed on rooftops or already-disturbed lands.  The public lands targeted for the proposed project site host a diverse array of birds, reptiles, mammals, and plants, prompting concern from desert conservationists that the massive project will block wildlife connectivity across the central Mojave. [Click on image to expand]  A screenshot of the modified layout of the Calico Solar project, which would be built by K Road Power Modifications Miss the Point The modified layout of the Calico Solar project provides a 158 a

Edward Abbey and the Great American Desert

Chris Clarke over at Coyote Crossing found this old film of Edward Abbey -- an ardent defender of the desert -- that intended to air in 1985, but ended up getting shelved by a broadcast company that apparently rejected his efforts to protect nature.  I read Edward Abbey's Desert Solitude in high school, and have to say that it was one of the few books I loved reading back then. I did not know at the time, though, what the desert would mean to me later in my life.  I cherished the desert's quiet open space, the challenge of an unrelenting sun, and the reward of the most beautiful sunsets. I just took all of that for granted. Essay Here is another great work on Edward Abbey recently featured in the new ARID: Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology .  The piece is an interactive web experience titled " Canyonlands: Edward Abbey and the Great American Desert " that takes you from Ed's arrival at Arches National Park in the late 1950s to the end of his life