News 3...2...1

Tule Wind Project Construction in McCain Valley

Tule Wind development 1

August 10, 2017 - Eastern San Diego County CA - The 450 foot turbines are now being delivered for the Tule Wind Project. The 62 turbine project will be located on 12,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in scenic McCain Valley located east of San Diego, California. The project was contested by land owners and conservation organizations over the location and the Bureau of Land Management did not listen. McCain Valley will no longer be scenic and happens to be very important for raptors. In fact, the Tule Wind Project is within the range of the California Condor. You can monitor the destruction yourself by checking the BLM's compliance monitoring web site for the project. These web sites are considered mitigation for the destruction: http://www.tulewindeccmp.com/#Background

Tule Wind

Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower Back Online After 8 Month Repairs

July 30, 2017 - Tonopah NV - We noticed that the glowing sun-like light was brilliantly glowing again atop the 700-foot power tower out in the remote desert of central Nevada. Solar Reserve finally flipped the switch back on to their utlity-scale solar thermal power plant, which has molten salt tanks to store excess electricity generated after dark. Sources tell us the intense heat of this solar power plant--at a scale never attempted before--presented problems for pipes and welds. Vibrations of molten salt flowing through the pipes caused problems.

We have concerns with this type of technology due to the intense heat-energy created by sunlight bouncing off mirrors and concentrating at the tower receiver (where the molten salt is heated): the solar flux incinerates or injures birds which fly through it. Right now, swallows are flying about the desert in post-breeding movements. Other birds may also be active, such as lesser nighthawks. We will be monitoring the mortality reports since this power plant is on public land.

Also see the article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Basin & Range Watch Receives Grant to Study Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands Under Threat in the Great Basin

Egan Range

^The Egan Range, near Ely, Nevada. Not in need of management.

July 29, 2017 - Native ecosystems of the Great Basin are under attack from long-running management policies used by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that are coming more and more under question.

Using terms such as "treatment" and "restore" BLM proposes to clearcut and thin natural communities that may have more to do with livestock range improvements than helping sage grouse and other wildlife.

One area will cover almost 85,000 acres in the Egan Range of eastern Nevada, near Ely:

"The Bristlecone Field Office is proposing to conduct a habitat and vegetation restoration project within an 84,675 acre project area in the Egan and Johnson Basins. Treatments would focus primarily on removing pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) from sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities. The proposed action is to treat approximately 24,375 acres of 21 treatment units and to manually thin pinyon and juniper in some areas (low density tree areas) throughout the entire 84,675 acre project area. The purpose of the treatments would be to restore sagebrush communities and improve woodland health by reducing tree canopy coverage and density of pinyon pine and Utah juniper. This would also improve Greater sage-grouse and other wildlife habitat, improve vegetation community health, decrease heavy fuel loads, and improve resistance and resiliency to disturbance (wildfire, weeds, etc.)." (See BLM's eplanning page)

In Utah, pinyon and juniper trees will be destroyed on the Tavaputs Plateau near Sunnyside, UT. BLM describes how "Encroaching pinyon-juniper trees will be thinned, shredded and burned utilizing various treatment methods including; thin-pile-burn, lop & scatter bullhog and seeding." This is purportedly to "restore" sage grouse habitat. (See BLM's eplanning page)

Basin and Range Watch recently recieved a grant from Fund For Wild Nature to document the impacts of these BLM treatments on Pinyon-Juniper woodland in the Great Basin, and use the latest science to study the historical ecology and relationships between wildfire, wildlife, and grazing in pinyon-juniper woodlands. We will share our findings later this year.

Save Our National Monuments

Timber Mtn

July 10, 2017 - Overlooking the 702,000 acre Basin and Range National Monument from 8,606 ft. Timber Mountain, Seaman Range, Nevada. Will monument designation be removed? Will a train transporting high level nuclear waste be built though the monument lands if the status changes? You can support the monuments here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001

Federal Government Seeks Input on How to Gut National Environmental Policy Act Reviews

July 4, 2017 - Our public lands are at an even greater tunring point now, with the administration seeking to "streamline" environmental laws and reviews of development projects. Demand a longer review period--two weeks is too short for such a gigantic potential change.

Announcements received July 3 read: "The President and Secretary of the Interior Zinke have asked the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to take a new, in-depth look into our land use planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes."

A very short 21-day comment period, beginning on July 3, 2017 and ending on July 24, 2017, opens during in which you can "submit your ideas specific to how we can make the BLM’s planning procedures and environmental reviews timelier and less costly, as well as responsive to local needs. This streamlining effort will help shape how we move forward. You can submit your input by going to this link: goo.gl/CYxqM5." In other words, how to lessen public input in environmental reviews so that corporate interests may develop our public lands fater and more easily.

Past efforts to shorten the NEPA are partly at fault, we beleive, in the push to streamline energy projects of all kinds. Precedents set by one administration can easily be used by the next administration, no matter how different their policies. The big lesson is to never compromise the laws that we have, no matter how tempting it is. Keeping what we have gives us tools we may need in the future. It was a mistake to promote any streamlining.

This should be a lesson for environmentalists who promoted the streamlining of large-scale renewable energy on public lands during the last administration. Many large project reviews were "streamlined". Fast forward to the present where the Trump Administration shows very little pride in our public treasures, but will use this streamlining template to open up the whole west to multiple kinds of development. They are taking the "public" out of "public lands".

Streamlining Environmental Review on Public Lands

The Google Document presented by the Department of Interior states:

The BLM is working to identify discrete actions that can be taken to improve the NEPA and planning processes. The Bureau is specifically looking for improvements in the following six focus areas. To be most helpful, please submit succinct and unique ideas relevant to each of these six focus areas, using the fields on the following pages (please use one field for each discrete idea).


A. Focused Analysis: How can the BLM reduce duplicative and disproportionate analyses?

B. User-friendly Planning: How can the BLM help state and local governments, tribal partners, and other stakeholders understand and participate in the planning process?

C. Transparency: How can the BLM foster greater transparency in the NEPA process?

D. Being Good Neighbors: How can the BLM build trust and better integrate the needs of state and local governments, tribal partners, and other stakeholders?

E. Reducing Litigation: How can the BLM create legally defensible documents and avoid the delays associated with legal challenges?

F. "Right-sized" Environmental Analysis: How can the BLM more closely match the level of NEPA analysis to the scale of the action being analyzed?

Recommended solutions may include changes to BLM policy (e.g., Bureau manuals, handbooks, etc.); changes to regulations; and/or changes to laws.

You are welcome to submit multiple forms if you have more than four recommended solutions for a topic.

The BLM will consider the input you provide as the Bureau identifies potential solutions for improving the planning and NEPA processes. However, please note that this is not an official comment period; the BLM will not be providing responses back to you on the input you submit.

DOI Privacy Policy: https://www.doi.gov/privacy

The BLM is interested in soliciting public input about ways to streamline the Bureau's planning and NEPA processes. This request constitutes a general solicitation of comments and does not seek information about commenters, other than that necessary for self-identification. Therefore it is not subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. 3501-3521. (Please refer to implementing regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(h)(4)).

Ord Mountain Solar Project and the San Emigdio Blue Butterfly

Saltbush

^Fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens) on a playa edge near the Granite Mountains, Lucerne Valley.

June 30, 2017 - Lucerne Valley CA - The Ord Mountain Solar Project would be located on 485 acres of land just north of Lucerne Valley, California. It would remove Mojave Desert natural communities and be constructed within 50 feet of some homes. The project would produce 60 MW and would have a 35,000 square foot battery storage building. Because temperatures get so hot in Lucerne Valley in the summer, the building will require air conditioning. The question is, how much power will be used up to cool the building with the batteries? Why not use rooftops instead, especially rooftops in coastal cities and load centers? Individual batteries can stay cool in homes.

There is a rare butterfly that may be present as well, the San Emigdio blue (Plebejus emigdionis) that requires saltbush (Atriplex) as its host plant. It has a special relationship with the mound ant (Formica francoeuri). The butterfly lays a single egg on four-wing saltbush leaves (Atriplex canescens). Caterpillars eat the saltbush leaves and are tended to by the ants which harvest honeydew from the larvae. Older caterpillars overwinter in the soil. Building industrial solar projects in Atriplex habitats in this area could destroy this delicate ecology.

The San Emigdio blue is very rare and local in southern California from Inyo County south through the Mojave Desert, San Joaquin Valley, Bouquet and Mint Canyons, and Los Angeles County. Its NatureServe Global Status is G3 - Very rare or local throughout its range or found locally in a restricted range (21 to 100 occurrences), and therefore considered threatened throughout its range. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has considered it as a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

This project should not be built here, but better alternatives of Community Choice Aggregate and community solar projects in places where the local community chooses, or rooftop solar in the built environment coupled with battery storage, should be the preferred alternative.

For more information, and email address to send comment to, see >>here.

The Overgeneration Problem in California

Joshua Tree cartoon

June 22, 2017 - Finally catching up to our analysis, the Los Angeles Times has a good article out about the glut of solar now in the Golden State, and how electricity generation from large-scale solar projects in the desert must be curtailed more and more.

They discuss the findings of former San Diego Gas and Electric engineer Jaleh Firooz:

Firooz reported that "...a combination of improved energy efficiency, local solar production, storage and other planning strategies would be more than sufficient to handle the area’s power needs even as the population grew."

No need for more utility-scale solar projects to be built on desert ecosystems, or new natural gas plants.

We have been talking about this for a year now, based on meetings of the Renewable Energy Action Team, and such information shared here. This is precisely where Distributed options like Community Choice Aggregates and residential solar paired with advanced battery storage can help store some of the glut so it does not unbalance the grid. But this requires a new utility model, and that has been somewhat slow and painful for California.

Oil Drilling Leases Gone Overboard in Central Nevada Basins

Green Monster Cyn

^Table Mountain Wilderness Area, a 9-10,000 foot plateau covered with aspen on the Monitor Range, Toiyabe National Forest.

May 26, 2017 - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auctioned about 190,000 acres of public lands in some of the most remote and beautiful basins of central Nevada for oil and natural gas leases, including places like Monitor Valley between the tall Toquima Range and Table Mountain Wilderness Area.

Setting a precedent, BLM did absolutely no deferrals. In the past, BLM deferred areas that were nominated for leases if the liquid mineral resources seemed speculative, damaging of resources, or frankly poor. In what appears to be a political move to further the domestic energy aganda of President Trump, no deferrals were marked during this round of auctions.

The problem is, these oil deposits are very deep and would be expensive to drill, lying under thick faulted Great Basin crusts and tough geological layers thousands of feet down. They are not shallow oil desposits such as in the Bakken Shale of North Dakota, or the rich oil deposits of Texas, or even the Bakersfield oil plays in California. Speculation seems rampant in Nevada these days, but BLM is being influenced by the present administration to make energy production in the US appear greater than it is. The numbers may look good on paper, but Nevada is quite marginal for oil drilling. Railroad Valley hosts a few drill rigs and pumps, but it is a very low and marginal producer. Global oil prices will no doubt decide how much money drillers are willing to throw at these poor resources.

Monitor Valley

^Monitor Valley with the Monitor Range in the background. This is sage grouse habitat with sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and lush native grass, rush and sedge meadows.

We have seen Greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in Monitor Valley several times, and the area should be protected from new road-building, disturbance, and test drilling. This is a wild and scenic basin surrounded by aspen-filled mountain ranges. It should not be released for oil and gas drilling.

Several environmental groups protested the leases.

aspen

^Aspen on the Monitor Range, central Nevada.

Cadiz Water Project: Tell Rep. Cook It's a Bad Idea in the Desert

May 26, 2017 - San Bernardino County CA - Congressman Paul Cook (R-CA, 8th District) is up for reelection in 2018 and supports the Cadiz Water Project which would pump groundwater out of the Mojave Desert to be piped to coastal southern California cities. The project will damage springs in the Mojave National Preserve. You can contact Paul Cook and tell him that his support of a project would only benefit a big company and will harm groundwater resources in the area. This is mostly fossil water, and recharge takes decades if not centuries. Contact him >>here.

Crescent Peak Wind Proposal Pushed Ahead by BLM

Crescent Peak wind

^Crescent Peak Hills, Nevada, site of a proposed wind project adjacent to the new Castle Mountains National Monument.

May 14, 2017 - According to documents obtained by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is putting out a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Resource Management Plan but will not consider the wind free request. The EIS would cover wilderness study, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC's), solar energy, land disposal, Gold Butte, and socioeconomics. Basin and Range Watch sent in a request to BLM to examine a wind-energy-free zone in the Searchlight and Piute Valley region, accompanied by a petition with over 700 signatures. The Colorado River Indian Tribes also requested this. We believe it is legitimate for BLM to cover it in a Supplemental EIS.

There is a draft Notice of Intent (with mineral segregation) and BLM has a Press Release ready to go with no date on it were obtained as part of the FOIA documents we obtained. There is also a raptor survey indicating the area is full of eagles. See more >>here.

Saving Our National Monuments: Comment Period to Open

Carrizo wildflowers

^The Superbloom this April in the Temblor Range, Carrizo Plain National Monument. Hillside daisy (Monolopia lanceolata) and phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) make large patches of color that brought many tourists to wonder at the normally arid grassland in the South Coast Range of California. These areas should continue to be protected as National Monuments. (Photo: Laura Cunningham)

May 11, 2017 - The Office of the Secretary of Interior posted the rather ominously titled press release today:
Interior Department Releases List of Monuments Under Review, Announces First-Ever Formal Public Comment Period for Antiquities Act Monuments.

The press release states: "The Department of the Interior today announced the first ever formal public comment period for members of the public to officially weigh in on monument designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906, and the Department released a list of monuments under review under the President’s Executive Order 13792, issued April 26, 2017. A public comment period is not required for monument designations under the Antiquities Act; however, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that local input is a critical component of federal land management.

"Comments may be submitted online after May 12 at http://www.regulations.gov by entering 'DOI-2017-0002' in the Search bar and clicking 'Search,' or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

"DATES: The Department will shortly publish a notice in the Federal Register officially opening the public comment period. Written comments relating to the Bears Ears National Monument must be submitted within 15 days of publication of that notice. Written comments relating to all other designations subject to Executive Order 13792 must be submitted within 60 days of that date."

National Monuments being reviewed include the following:

Basin and Range (Nevada) 2015 -703,585 acres
Bears Ears (Utah) 2016 - 1,353,000 acres
Berryessa Snow Mountain (California) 2015- 330,780 acres
Canyons of the Ancients (Colorado) 2000 - 175,160 acres
Carrizo Plain (California) 2001- 204,107 acres
Cascade Siskiyou (Oregon) 2000/ expanded in 2017 - 100,000 acres
Craters of the Moon (Idaho) 1924/expanded in 2000 - 737,525 acres
Giant Sequoia (California) 2000 - 327,760 acres
Gold Butte (Nevada) 2016 - 296,937 acres
Grand Canyon-Parashant (Arizona) 2000 - 1,014,000 acres
Grand Staircase-Escalante (Utah) 1996 - 1,700,000 acres
Hanford Reach (Washington) 2000 - 194,450.93 acres
Ironwood Forest (Arizona) 2000 - 128,917 acres
Mojave Trails (California) 2016 - 1,600,000 acres
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (New Mexico) 2014 - 496,330 acres
Rio Grande del Norte (New Mexico) 2013 - 242,555 acres
Sand to Snow (California) 2016 - 154,000 acres
San Gabriel Mountains (California) 2014 - 346,177 acres
Sonoran Desert (Arizona) 2001 - 486,149 acres
Upper Missouri River Breaks (Montana) 2001 - 377,346 acres
Vermilion Cliffs (Arizon)a 2000 - 279,568 acres

and,

Katahadin Woods and Waters (Maine) 2016 -87,563 acres

Marine National Monuments are also being reviewed. We will shortly have sample letters to send to Congress and the Interior Secretary to request these amazing places continue to be protected. More >>here including our LETTER to SESCRETARY OF THE INTERIOR.

Cancellation of Searchlight Wind Project Protects Tortoises and Golden Eagles

Searchlight

^Searchlight Hills, Nevada.

April 19, 2017 - Crews are now removing the wind testing meteorological (MET) towers for the Searchlight Wind Project which was proposed to be located on public lands in the Piute Valley about 50 miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada. According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Las Vegas Field Office, the agency is now in the process of closing the application for the project, 18 months after a federal judge voided the federal approvals for the project because of the likely harm to desert tortoises and golden eagles.

In March 2013, the BLM issued a Record of Decision approving construction of the Searchlight Wind Energy Project by. The project would have sited 87 industrial scale wind turbines, each 427 feet tall (about the height of the Palms Hotel), on the ridges and uplands next to the town of Searchlight, Nevada and bordering scenic Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The project would have marred the area’s scenic beauty, threatened the desert tortoise, killed golden eagles, desecrated the view of Spirit Mountain—sacred to Native American Tribes—impacted the historical mining district, and damaged the future tourism potential of the community. The project would have been sited on 9,300 acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The project site borders the Piute-Eldorado Area of Critical Environmental Concern, designated to protect the desert tortoise.


On October 30th, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du vacated the federal permits for construction of the Searchlight Wind Project in Southern Nevada. Judge Du found that environmental analyses prepared by the BLM and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) inadequately evaluated the dangers that the industrial-scale wind project would pose to desert wildlife. She cited data missing from the agency surveys, inadequate assessment of potential threats to golden eagles, desert tortoises, and bats. The BLM claimed that only 3 golden eagle nests were within 10 miles of the proposed project, but it was later confirmed by the Nevada Division of Wildlife that the number of golden eagle nests was 28.


Kevin Emmerich, CoFounder of Basin and Range Watch, said, “We applaud the Bureau of Land Management for finally putting an end to this ill-sited wind project. There are clearly better alternatives for renewable energy utilizing rooftops and other locations in the built environment that would produce the same amount of megawatts. It is time for the BLM to manage this special location to protect the view-shed, wildlife, property values and cultural resources in a way that will bring tourist dollars to the region.. This is no place for industrial scale energy.”

The BLM is considering another large-scale wind energy proposal in this region on over 35,000 acres to the west of the former Searchlight Wind Project. It would be called the Crescent Peak Wind Project and be located right next to the Mojave National Preserve and Castle Mountains National Monument. Basin and Range Watch has requested that the BLM designate the entire region a “Large-Scale Energy Free Zone” in their upcoming Southern Nevada Resource Management Plan.

“If a federal court ruled that there are too many potential harms to build an industrial-scale wind project near Searchlight, surely a far larger project like Crescent Peak with far more impacts should not be developed” said Laura Cunningham, Basin and Range Watch’s Executive Director. BLM expects to publish its Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Crescent Peak project later this year.

Judge Du’s October 30, 2015 order can be viewed here: http://www.basinandrangewatch.org/Searchlight-Order-Granting-Vacatu-10-30-15.pdf


The plaintiffs are represented by Dave Becker, an environmental lawyer from Portland, Oregon, and Jim Boyle of Holley, Driggs, Walch, Fine, Wray, Puzey & Thompson in Las Vegas.

Cadiz Groundwater Storage Project--A Bad Idea in the Desert

April 11, 2017 - The Trump adminsitration removed one of the main obstacles holding up the Cadiz water storage project, changing an adminisyrative finding from 2015 that the company seeking to store groundwater under the Cadiz Basin had to undergo extensive environmental review to use 43 miles of existing railraid route for its water pipeline. This original finding would have meant the Cadiz water company would need to obtain a Right-of-Way to use this railroad Right-of-Way across Bureau of Land Management land. The company is seeking to pump groundwater from wells west of Needles CA and pipe it to the Cadiz basin, to then sell to urban areas in Orange County.

The project may also be seeking financial aid from the federal government, as it was mentioned in a memo by the Trump Administration for a possible infrasctructure stimulus pick.

Check out Mojave Desert Blog for an excellent summary of the current situation concerning this unsustainable proposal.

Basin & Range Watch Gets Out to Visit Congressional Offices, Attend Conferences, and Educate Kids

PIELC

March 13, 2017 - Thanks to your generous donations we have been busy getting out and about in our continuing conservation activities. On February 24 and 25, 2017, we attended the Desert Tortoise Council annual Symposium in Las Vegas NV where we also had an informational table about our nonprofit. The latest science about desert tortoises was presented and we will report on this later.

On March 2 and 3, 2017, we attended the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where we were on two panels. One was about large-scale solar in the desert and better alternatives such as rooftop solar. We showed students and public participants the impacts that have accumulated over the years from utlity-scale solar projects, and how policy obstacles--not technology--has held back Distributed Generation. Attorney Dave Becker of Portland OR was on our panel, as well as Lisa Belenky of Center for Biological Diversity. The second panel was about pinyon-juniper woodland impacts and removal, Lithium mining, and military base expansions in the Great Basin. More on these panels soon.

Executive Director Laura Cunningham was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Pacific Climate Conference in Pacific Grove last week, where the latest science is discussed concerning reconstructing past climates from proxy data such as pollen analysis of lake cores and ocean sediments, tracking El Nino-Southern Oscillation cycles, drought and the Atmospheric River, and other topics. Work is moving forward on reconstruction of past climate and vegetation from lakes and meadows in the Great Basin. This has implications for understanding future climate.

We also gave a field class to students at the Vernal Pool Preserve by the University of California at Merced, in the San Joaquin Valley CA. It was great to work with young people about natural history and writing. Some of the students are developing an app that will be a digital field guide to the species on the preserve, that students can use to learn about the tremendous biodiversity there. During the morning we saw a burrowing owl fly out of a ground squirrel burrow, two bald eagles, numerous geese and sandpipers, flocks of horned larks, a coyote, and wildflowers beginning to bloom after a very rainy winter.

And importantly, Basin & Range Watch during the last month has visited the offices of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Representative Ruben Kihuen (D-NV 4th District) in Las Vegas NV, to discuss issues of concern to us in the desert: public lands, energy development, Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository, and military base expansions, as well as our proposal for a wind energy-free zone in Piute Valley in southern Nevada. We plan to visit more offices of our elected officials in Nevada and California in the coming weeks and months.

Merced field class

^Students at UC Merced in the San Joaquin Valley learn about grassland species, examining the sign of burrowing owls at a California ground squirrel burrow.

Paclim

^Poster at the Pacific Climate Conference on geophysical characters of a lake sediment core in the Utah Great Basin.

DT symposium

^Slide showing genetic connectivity models across the Southwest Deserts for the Desert tortoise, shown at the Desert Tortoise Council Symposium.

Reid office

^Last but not least, we had good discussions with staff of our elected officials in Congress. Here is the plaza near the Court building in Las Vegas NV, where Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has her local office.

The Sierra Club Desert Report Tells Our Story

March 12, 2017 - Read the Desert Report, news of the desert from Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee expertly edited by Craig Deutsche. Our Executive Director Laura Cunningham writes aboput how Basin and Range Watch got started defending the desert, and what our plans are for continuing. Our good friend Terry Weiner, of the Desert Protective Council, writes a parallel article about how this venerable organization has perservered through the decades also defending the desert, and is unfortunately dissolving this month. Basin and Range Watch is taking over the organizations duties and continuing its mission. Stay tuned.

See the Desert Report at: http://www.desertreport.org

Please consider a donation to help publish this valuable journal that covers California and Nevada desert issues. We have been cooperating with Desert Committee friends and colleagues for many years and value their work in desert conservation.

First Solar Exiting Their Yieldco

Desert Sunlight

^Desert Sunlight Solar Farm under construction in 2012 in Chuckwalla valley. The project was constructed by First Solar.

April 11, 2017 - In one of the surest signs that utility-scale solar projects in the desert are grinding to a halt, First Solar is selling its interests in the yieldco vehicle 8Point3 Energy Partners LP, a separately-traded entity on the New York Stock Exchange. This yieldco is a financial instrument designed to raise funds for project development, and was a joint venture with SunPower Corporation. Yieldcos were a popular method during the Big Solar heyday a few years ago to finance a pipeline of projects.

First Solar, Inc., is one of the largest solar manufacturers and developers, having built such mega-projects as Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in Riverside County CA. First Solar said it is planning to scale back to manufacturing new lines of solar panels, and not project development or operation.

The Trump Adminitsation has shifted the focus of energy on public lands away from renewable energy and onto fossil fuels. In addition, California and Nevada have acheived a build-out of utility-scale solar so much so that peak times of day are flooded with too much electricity on the grid. Thus, our analysis is that even despite Trump, a slowdown in this sector was going to happen anyway due to grid congestion and the unwillingness of utlitiies to buy more electricity from solar projects until storage options are made available. This of course, is a great time for Distributed Generation solar and battery storage to take the fore. See our story on this >>here. Other news media have been very slow to accept that this trend is happening.

Your Input Needed for Piute-Eldorado Area of Critical Environmental Concern

Castle Mt

^The town of Searchlight, Nevada, as seen from the new Castle Mountains National Monument in California, looking across Piute Valley.

March 29, 2017 - Southern Nevada - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Las Vegas Field Office is seeking comments from the public as they begin the process of developing an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC)  Management Plan for the Piute-Eldorado Valley ACEC, located in the southern portion of Nevada.

Public meetings will be an open house format. See schedule below:

April 4 – Boulder City Library, 701 Adams Blvd. 6-8 p.m.
April 5 – Searchlight Community Ctr, 200 Michael Wendell Wal. 6-8 p.m.
April 11 – Clark County Library 1401 E.  Flamingo Road, Las Vegas 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
April 12 – Laughlin Town Hall; 101 Civic Way 6-8 p.m.

Written comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:

Email: srowe@blm.gov
Fax: (702) 515-5023
Mail: Bureau of Land Management, Attn: ACEC Plan
4071 N Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89130

Please note: You should be aware that your comments including your personal identifying information may be made publically available at any time.

For questions call: Suzanne Rowe, Project Manager (702) 515-5017.

Save Nevada Deserts: Put Renewable Energy in the Built Environment

protests

March 27, 2017 - We support Nevada State Assembly Bill 270, to restore Nevada's beneficial net-metering policy. The bill was recently introduced and is being revieewed, and we find it quite advanced: it would set a minimum credit of 11 cents per kilowatt hour for rooftop solar generation that is fed back into the grid. The bill in our opinion correctly monetizes the value of rooftop solar, by specifically giving a credit of 9 cents for avoided new natural gas plants having to be built, and avoided transmission and distribution costs. The other 2 cents would be based on the environmental benefits of avoided carbon dioxide emissions and avoided water consumption.

The old argument of a cost shift onto people living in apartments and mobile homes is a false argument, since utilities pass on capital costs of new transmission lines and power plants to all customers avyway--the less of these that will be built, the less utlities will need to pass on those costs to all ratepayers. The California Energy Commission is proposing to build a new peaker natural gas plant in the Los Angeles area, the Puente Power Plant. Instead of this polluting fossil fuel plant, more rooftop solar panels with battery storage could eliminate the need for this new power plant.

Rooftop solar generators would still be responsible for fixed charges that are paid by all utility customers, but otherwise this is a good credit for rooftop generators.

Register your "Yes" vote if you are a Nevadan, in this Assembly opinion page that state legislators review when they decide how to vote. Yes on AB 270:

https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/79th2017/A/?ct=t()&mc_cid=41e57ab8a5&mc_eid=fb94bf0a2b

In a recent interview, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Picker, discussed California's excess of electricity clogging the grid at peak times of day, and how Distributed Generation with battery storage would be valuable to alleviate this problem. Also, changing when people use heavy amounts of electricity--described as time of use--will be needed with increased renewable generation.

Picker says, "The first people who will do time of use will be those who have solar panels on their roof that are paid for by net metering. Most of them decided to be energy producers; they’re going to make their own electricity, but they are going to sell their excess. That’s the crazy thing: They’re not just making electricity for themselves, but they’re selling it back to the rest of us in the system. The system has to be plug-and-play so customers can plug it in and the system says, 'Here is a battery, here is an electric vehicle, here is a solar.' You don’t have to worry about it.... [A]ll of this is changing the nature of the utilities. As a matter of fact, it probably won’t make sense for the electric utilities to sell electricity anymore, or be the only ones who sell it. They should provide the platform, the infrastructure that allows people to use electricity to drive carbon out of their homes, and out of our industry. For a lot of people this will be a big change because they’re going to have to think about their energy use, both in terms of their personal use and their transportation choices."

Nevada State Assembly Bill 206 has also been introduced this month, seeking to raise the Nevada Renewable Energy Portfolio standard to 80% by 2040. But the bill has no provisions to fix the state's broken net-metering rooftop solar energy policy, which has been hindered by utility interests. Without that provision added to the bill, we fear utility-scale solar projects that tear up natural desert communities will be favored. We do not want to see any more desert tortoise habitat bulldozed for solar projects when abundant sunlight shines down on the empty rooftops of thousands of houses and commercial buildings in the state.

Foretunately the bill counts energy efficiency as fullfilling the RPS, something which California still does not do towards its RPS stranegly. So the bill has promise, but needs provisions added to protect wildlands from energy development, and fix the net-energy metering policy in the state to allow this sector to expand. And lessons need to be taken from California's problems integrating so much utility-scale solar projects into the over-burdened grid.

Marines Order Coyote Kill along with Tortoise Translocation -- This is Unacceptable

coyote

March 22, 2017 - Red Alert: Call the 29 Palms Marine Corps base Public Affairs office at (760) 830-5310 and tell them not to start killing coyotes!

The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center is hosting a coyote hunt in an attempt to "save" desert tortoises, possibly as a mitigation for the 1,500 tortoises they are about to move (translocate) off of 49,000 acres of Mojave Desert habitat for large military vehicle maneuvers. This is definitely not a "conservation action" as described below. It is impossible to remove coyotes. Past attempts to kill coyotes to save tortoises have not worked. If the Marines want to help 1,500 desert tortoises, the best action is to avoid expanding the base and leave the tortoises alone in their natural habitat.

This is a major admonition that desert tortoise translocations results in unacceptably high mortality, as tortoises are removed from their home ranges and released in areas strange to them where they do not have a memory of their favored burrows and other shelters. Translocated tortoises often travel long distances in an attempt to return to their familiar home ranges, and during these wanderings they become very susceptible to natural predations by native species such as coyotes and ravens.

This is not the fault of the coyotes, but the fault of modern pressures to develop the desert and expand destructive management practices such as military maneuvers into the homes of tortoises and coyotes. The so-called mitigation of killing coyotes is a false action that will not help recover the tortoise, and will only disrupt desert ecosystems more. Coyotes are a native, natural species that belong to the Mojave Desert. Tanks, Humvees, bombing, live-fire exercises, and military maneuvers do not belong to the desert. The military has enough land to carry out tests and training, they do not need to keep expanding.

An unacceptably high tortoise mortality resulted from the Ft. Irwin Army base expansion where nearly 50% of desert tortoises suffered mortality after being removed. Coyotes were blamed for predating many tortoises, and claims were made that a drought was increasing coyote predation on tortoises. But the evidence we have seen is that translocation itself is the cause of mortality, not any unusually high number of coyotes, or drought conditions, or subsidized predators. The simple cause is the current politically-agreed upon need to take more desert tortoise habitat for destructive development and military usage. In other words, the continued expansion of the Military-Industrial Complex. This coyote hunt shows that the military believes a similar high tortoise mortality is expected, without extreme measures to "protect" translocated tortoises who are placed far from their safe home ranges.

The Coyote hunt should be halted, and if tortoises are to be translocated, other, better mitigation measures should be taken in order to safeguard translocated tortoises, such as more artificial burrows constructed and tortoises watched over and monitored with GPS tags to track their movement at a much higher intensity then simply dumping them into new territory and expecting them to fend for themselves. We cannot rely on translocation to save tortoises, it is a failed mitigation measure. But blaming coyotes is not the answer.


Call the 29 Palms Marine Corps base Public Affairs office at (760) 830-5310 and tell them not to start killing coyotes!


The information we obtained from the Marine Base reads:


"Folks,
MCAGCC [Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center] will host a coyote hunt ca. 0600-2200h each Saturday and Sunday 25 & 26 March 2017 in the Sand Hill, West, Gypsum Ridge, East, Cleghorn Lake RTA.
A sixth RTA (Acorn or Prospect) may be included. There will be two hunters per RTA on each day, with their focus probably dawn and dusk (e.g., two hunters in Sand Hill on Saturday, and two hunters in Sand Hill on Sunday). See program notice below.


"The hunters must have a current CA Hunting license (which requires Hunter Safety Training) and obey all normal rules (e.g., speed limits, no off-MSR vehicle traffic in Restricted Areas) for use of the RTA. The CLEOs will operate the program, hunters will be equipped with range radios to communicate with BEARMAT.


"CALL FOR CONSERVATION ACTION PARTICIPATION In support of the Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs (NREA) Division's coyote depredation program, volunteers are invited to participate in a coyote depredation hunt. To be considered, please send your name via an email to russell.elswick@usmc.mil NLT Friday, March 17, 2017 with your full name, contact phone number and email address. After a lottery draw, a limited number of volunteers will be notified and invited by NREA to participate in the event. To participate, volunteers must be available for an in-brief at 1830 on 24 Mar, possess a current California hunting license, and have a 4x4 transport to get them out to the Range Training Areas where the hunt will occur. The hunt will go on 25 and 26 Mar, and each volunteer will be assigned a day and hunting area. The purpose of the depredation program is to reduce the numbers of coyotes that are unnaturally inflated in the local area due to human subsidies. Elevated coyote numbers prove a safety risk to residents, and are a significant factor in the mortality of the desert tortoise."

Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower Still Offline

February 4, 2017 - Ramping up is taking a lot longer than expected for the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project near Tonopah NV, as a small leak in the hot salt tank was found in December 2016. The power plant is still off a few months later. The molten salt tanks are used for thermal storage. The unprecedented size of the plant might account for the difficulties in the construction of the pipes, welds, and other parts with the extreme heat of the molten salt as it is heated by the sun in the receiver tower, and flows down into the storage tanks. More >>here.

White House List of Potential Infrastructure Projects Could Impact the Desert

UPDATED January 26, 2017 - The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) web page has been removed from the White House website. Congress established the CEQ within the Executive Office of the President as part of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), during the Nixon administration. CEQ is mentioned in this Executive Order issued on January 24 by President Trump, on streamlining and expediting environmental review for transmission lines, pipelines, highways, and other "High Priority" infrastructure projects: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/24/executive-order-expediting-environmental-reviews-and-approvals-high

The CEQ is still described on this Department of Energy web page (https://ceq.doe.gov):

NEPA established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) within the Executive Office of the President to ensure that Federal agencies meet their obligations under NEPA. CEQ oversees NEPA implementation, principally through issuing guidance and interpreting regulations that implement NEPA's procedural requirements. CEQ also reviews and approves Federal agency NEPA procedures, approves alternative arrangements for compliance with NEPA for emergencies, and helps to resolve disputes between Federal agencies and with other governmental entities and members of the public.


Today, CEQ is involved in tackling a wide range of environmental issues and setting forth a number of initiatives. One of CEQ's major responsibilities is to develop and recommend national policies to the President that promote the improvement of environmental quality and meet the Nation's goals.

We are troubled that the CEQ web page has been removed from the White House website. Will CEQ and environmental law be weakened and much less transparent to the public?

January 24, 2017 - The Cadiz Water Project may get funded in President Trump's push to use stimulus money for infrastructure projects. Also listed are large-scale energy storage and transmission projects, including the TransWest Express Transmission line from the massive Chokecherry wind project in Wyoming, through Utah and Nevada into California to load centers. The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project itself is listed as a possible stimulus recipient, as is the Ft. Mojave Solar Project.

The Trump transition team had put together the priority list of “Emergency & National Security Projects,” and the National Governors Association circulated a similar list as a spreadsheet among state officials in December 2016.

The Cadiz Water Project is a controversial scheme to pump groundwater from the Cadiz area basin on private land (before it is "wasted in evaporation") and then construct a pipeline (through land managed by the Bureau of Land Management) to the Colorado River Aqueduct where it would be exported to Orange County and the Santa Margarita Water District. The trouble is, this desert groundwater is "fossil" water from wetter climatic periods such as the Ice Age 10,000 years ago. It does not recharge fast enough to replenish the area when pumped out. There is a danger pumping out this arid land aquifer could lower surrounding water tables in unknown ways. Calling this project "sustainable" is like calling the mining of gold a never-ending prospect for eternal wealth. Water is as good as gold in the West and in limited supply. Water conservation in the thirsty Southern California region is a much better alternative. The groundwater pumping scheme could negetaively impact the new Mojave Trails National Monument.

The Chokecherry-Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project may be the largest land-based wind project in the US if built, and is estimated to have the potential to kill 10-14 golden eagles annually for the duration of the project (30 years), requiring a US Fish and Wildlife Service Take permit (see https://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/wind/ChokecherrySierraMadre/documents/2016/FEIS/04_CCSM_FEIS_Chapter_3_AE_and_EC.pdf, page 3-267).

The TransWest Express Transition project is a controversial line that is approved but mired in litigation as it passes through numerous states, towns, private lands, and natural areas. California state agencies repsonsible for providing electricity to cities are in approval of the line to obtain "high-quality" wind energy in Wyoming to help balance the grid in Califiornia. That state is now experiencing an overgeneration of utility-scale solar energy and other forms of energy are needed to help balance the grid. See more on this crucial problem >>here.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/politics-government/article128492614.html

Tortoise Translocations at Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in Nevada

Dry Lake

December 27, 2016 - Clark County NV - The second quarter 2016 desert tortoise report for the Playa Solar Project (1,760 acres) on the Dry Lake South Solar Energy Zone reveals that 77 tortoises have been moved, including 42 adults and 35 juveniles. The report was prepared for the Bureau of Land Management. Playa solar initiated translocation activities in September 2015. One adult tortoise suffered mortality during pre-construction activities. See maps and more photos >>here.

30-Year Eagle Take Permit Rule: "Sustainable Take"

Golden eagle

December 15, 2016 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) revised the regulations for eagle nonpurposeful take 5-year permits and eagle nest take permits on Wednesday, extending the maximum permit duration for eagle incidental take permit to 30 years. These permits would apply to any development impacting eagles, including wind projects and transmission lines carrying coal generated electricity.

While admitting golden eagles are declining in the western U. S., the Fish and Wildlife Service decided that such a thing as "Sustainable Take" is possible.

USFWS seems to have a twisted math version of conservation biology, where after doing a modeling study of eagle populations in the U.S. they admit that golden eagles are declining, and 56% of mortality is from human causes. But then they say in order to benefit the "regulated community" (i.e. companies), they have come up with the "Sustainable Take" concept. Which to us is an oxymoron since allowing take (killing, harming) is not recovering a declining species.

The USFWS says:

"Sustainable take (the number of eagles that can be removed from the population while still achieving a stable population compared to the 2009 baseline) of golden eagles under those conditions would be 2,000 individuals (20th quantile = 1,600). The available information suggests ongoing levels of human-caused mortality likely exceed this value, perhaps considerably. This information supports the finding from the population model that golden eagle populations may be declining to a new, lower level" (USFWS Eagle Permits revision, page 11).

How is that sustainable? They claim this will allow for more compensatory mitigation to be done, but American Bird Conservancy rightly commented that these mitigation measures are not guaranteed to work, and their success is questionable.

We can see the side of the agency in wanting to collect more data, encourage companies to apply for take permits, and try to build up a suite of mitigation measures. But the encouragement does little to ask developers to avoid dense eagle population areas. More >>here.

TransWest Express Transmission Project Approved

TransWest

December 14, 2016 - Secretary Jewell approved the 600-kilovolt, direct current transmission line TransWest Express, a 728-mile line that crosses 442 miles of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public land, would deliver up to 3,000 megawatts from southcentral Wyoming wind projects to southern Nevada. The approval came as part of a package of streamlining steps to build more utility-scale renewable energy and wheel it across western states.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Secretary Jewell signed with California Governor Brown, the Interior Department and state agencies will work collaboratively on expanded and streamlined efforts to encourage the timely and responsible development of renewable energy projects on federal and state lands and offshore waters. A high priority is placed on processing applications for renewable energy projects in areas that minimize environmental effects, make efficient use of existing transmission systems and are consistent with ongoing cooperative planning efforts, such the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, Western Solar Plan, and the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, the Interior press release said.

But using rooftop solar, microgrids, and local battery storage in urban load centers would be a much less costly and more environmentally friendly way to increase renewable energy. More >>here.

BLM's Sagebrush Ecosystem Management Project--Not Ecological

Pinyon-juniper

^Pinyon-juniper woodlands in the Kawich Range, Nye County, Nevada.

December 2, 2016 - Central Nevada - Basin & Range Watch sent comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) opposing their Proposed Action for Sagebrush Ecosystem Management Project. The proposed programmatic action would be District-wide in the Battle Mountain District of central Nevada and include portions of Lander, Eureka, Nye, and Esmeralda Counties.

BLM says the goals for this project include "decreasing the severity and intensity of future wildland fires by reducing hazardous fuel loads, sustaining and improving sagebrush plant communities, and managing Phase I and targeted Phase II pinyon-juniper stands in wildlife habitat."

Improving sagebrush habitats by removing native old-growth pinyon-juniper woodlands is not supported by science. A better way to improve sagebrush communities would be to stop removing and degrading them, and fragmenting them with fracking wells and roads, transmission lines, and other developments. More >>here.

The Desert Does Not Need to be Graded for Energy With Distributed Energy Resources Making Advances

rooftop solar home

November 3, 2016 - Our wrap-up of the latest on rooftop solar, battery storage, and advanced Distributed Generation articles. Though some claim we cannot deal with climate change without having a massive build-out of utility-scale solar and wind projects on desert ecosystems and public lands once considered worthy of protection under the California Desert Protection Act (which has now been replaced by the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, without approval by most of the public). There are much better Alternatives to this plan. But the huge potential for rooftop solar plus local lithium battery storage, microgrids, load-shifting technology, and energy efficiency can give California, Nevada, and Arizona all the renewable energy that is needed, and would be less expensive than building long transmission lines across our wildlnads and through communities. Plus, California and Nevada have an oversupply of utility-scale solar generation and are looking for ways to balance the grid. The demand for rooftops solar is present, we need to remove policy obstacles and gain the benefits of this under-used renewable energy. Tesla, for one, has moved Distributed Energy Resources forward with new solar roof tiles (see TechCrunch.com), and their PowerWall 2.0 battery. Examples like the new Vivant Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, show that solar projects can go onto large-scale rooftops, not the homes of desert tortoises (see Deseret News). The state of New York seems to be advancing in renewable energy in the built environment much faster than California and Nevada: check out Greentech Media.

Bird Deaths at Solar Power Tower Revealed by FOIA Requests Made by Basin & Range Watch

Exclusive Investigative Report

FOIA

^Eared grebe scavenged at evaporation ponds at the solar thermal power tower project.

October 25, 2016 - Tonopah NV - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agreed to release several documents and redacted sections of documents as a result of Basin and Range Watch's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that challenged the agency's refusal to release certain documents concerning the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. We are still concerned about the lack of timeliness around the responses (and the non-responses) by BLM to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests made since February 2015. In order to better understand avian-solar interactions, the fullest amount of data is needed so that scientists, agencies, and the public can agree on the best management practices to conserve our desert ecosystems and bird faunas (or that impacts are too great to our desert ecosystems and public lands, rooftop solar would be a better alternative). The complete report >>here.

SolarReserve Proposes Ten More Power Towers in the Nevada Desert

October 25, 2016 - Tonopah NV - In a vague notice to select reporters, SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith proclaimed he would build up to ten more solar power towers with molten salt storage. The 16,000-acre project would be called "Sandstone." The location was not made clear except that it would be in Nye County, perhaps in southern Big Smoky Valley near Tonopah, on public land.

We have concerns about the transparency of the original Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project that will be the model for new projects. For instance, the efficiency has been low, and we do not know exactly how much heat is stored after sunset to provide electricity. Does the molten salt storage work as advertised? Does efficiency drop in the cold winters around this southern Great Basin environment? How will bird mortality be avoided or mitigated? There are too many answers for us to support the huge land use cost of this proposal.

New transmission infrastructure will have to be built, and a new substation, causing more land impacts to desert ecosystems. Impacts to birds would be greater than urban starlings or house sparrows hitting an office building.

With California having problems now dealing with excess utility-scale solar energy at peak hours, storage is in demand. A much more efficient way to meet this demand would be Advanced Distributed Energy Resources: rooftop solar paired with local battery storage, energy efficiency, load-shifting technologies, and microgrids in urban centers. The impacts of more utility-scale solar projects to our public wild lands would be too great. More >>here.

Details of Nellis Test and Training Range Expansion Plans Discussed at Scoping Meeting

B-1

October 12, 2016 - Beatty NV - We attended the scoping meeting for Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) military base expansion in Beatty, which was well-attended. The base proposes to expand into adjacent public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge). More >>here.

Environmental Assessment Out for Pumped Hydro Project Gen-tie Line and Water Pipeline

October 24, 2016 - Desert Center CA - Although the pumped hydro project is on private land of an old mine pit, a proposed large 500 kiloVolt gen-tie line for power and a water pipeline would cross public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). An Environmental Assessment has been released. The transmission line would go to Southern California Edison's Red Bluff sub-station. The water line would draw water from an area below private land, traverse BLM land, and fill the reservoirs at the pumped storage facility. The Pumped Storage Project was licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on June 19, 2014.

We oppose both the pumped hydro project and these gen-tie and water lines because pumping groundwater in the desert during a drought to fill a mine pit to generate energy stored from renewable energy projects would be highly wasteful of water and a very inefficient way to store energy. We support designating this old mine as part of adjacent Joshua Tree National Park and using advanced Distributed Energy Resources such as rooftop solar, local battery storage, microgrids, load-shifting technologies, and energy efficiency as the best way to move forward to a clean energy future while preserving our California Desert wildlands.

Comment on the project >>here.

Non-Transmission Alternative: DRECP is Outdated

Transmission

September 14, 2016 -- California state energy agencies explain the real situation with respect to renewable energy: over-generation of utility-scale solar projects in California and Nevada, high quality wind resources instate filled up, and the need for a massive and expensive transmission grid across the western US to try to balance it. Or we could have a Non-Transmission Alternative to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan that does not allow streamlining of energy development on our public lands and deserts. Rooftop solar and Distributed Energy Resources at the better way. >>Here.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to Approve the Final Public Lands Part of the DRECP Today at Noon in the Coachella Valley

Ironwood

^Desert ironwood overlooking the San Jacinto Mountains at sunset, Colorado Desert CA.

September 14, 2016 - Coachella Valley CA - The grassroots desert opposition to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) will also be at the event, showing support for real desert conservation in Distributed Energy Resource alternatives: rooftop solar, distributed battery storage, energy efficiency, and energy conservation. Plus, recent California energy agencies have discussed how the renewable energy picture in the state may not be so simple and clear--stay tuned for our story on this. We don't need to bulldoze more tortoise habitat or open up over 800,000 acres of desert wildlands to energy development.

See the Mojave Desert Blog for a primer on what we may expect today.

Our Distributed Energy Resources Alternative.

The California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan needs to be implemented.

What the DRECP would mean.

Scoping Begins for Nevada Military Land Expansion

August 28, 2016 - The Nellis Test and Training Range, and Naval Air Station in Fallon are seeking to expand to accommodate "new advanced technology." They want to take ureau of BLand Management land in exchanges, but this is amazing desert that we hike in and visit. We are asking for more maps to be provided. There will be public meetings--see the websites for listings. More >>here.

300,000 acres to Nellis with no maps available yet.

601,000 acres to Fallon.

and 88,000 acres and 1,400 desert tortoises to be translocated at 29 Palms Marine Base in CA.

We hope people speak up about this! That is your public land.

http://www.nttrleis.com

https://frtcmodernization.com

San Bernardino County Supervisors Vote Against Soda Mountain Solar Project

August 24, 2016 - San Bernardino CA - At a meeting yesterday well-attended by desert activists, County Supervisors gathered to vote 3-2 against giving premits to the unpopular Soda Mountain Solar Project. Here is a wrap-up of articles:

http://www.mojavedesertblog.com/2016/08/county-rejects-environmental.html

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-soda-mountain-solar-20160824-snap-story.html

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/08/soda-mountain-solar-project-fails-get-key-permits

Basin & Range Watch is a Science-Based Organization in Support of Desert Conservation and Distributed Energy Resources

August 9, 2016 - Basin & Range Watch contributed content to this letter and were signatories opposing the Soda Mountain Solar Project signed by scientists concerned with conservation of the California Desert - Scientists Letter to San Bernardino County Opposing Soda Mountain Solar and Asking to Support Distributed Energy Resources.

Bechtel Sells Soda Mountain Solar Project

August 17, 2016 - San Bernardino County CA - Bechtel, the multinational company that had previously purchased the Soda Mountain Solar Project from another entity, this month sold the project to developer Regenerate Power (http://www.regeneratepowerllc.com).

Birds Continue to be Injured at Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower

Prairie falcon

July 28, 2016 - Tonopah NV - Basin & Range Watch had the opportunity on July 25 to examine a prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) that had been found July 20 from Crescent Dunes solar project and found injured in the solar field.The bird injury was confirmed by US Fish and Wildlife Service. We examined it and took photographs. The feathers were melted and degraded and sores were still growing, matching descriptions by California Energy Commission of solar flux damage. The falcon was alive and active but both wings and tail appeared to be burned off--but not burned--rather melted or degraded to an extreme so that it was impossible for the bird to fly. The flight feathers were curled in places as if exposed to extreme heat energy, apparently from the solar flux. Open sores were present on the wrist of each wing, one larger than the other, and skin was visible as feathers had been degraded away. It is possible the follicles of the feathers were damaged and the feathers may or may not be able to grow back. See more photos >>here.

San Bernardino County Supervisors to Decide in Meeting on Soda Mountain Solar Project

Soda Mountain bighorn

July 21, 2016 - The next meeting of the County Supervisors will be on August 23, where they will consider the Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act review for the Soda Mountain Solar Energy Project. Please consider attending and making your voice heard.

See the Call to Action on the Morongo Basin Conservation Association and write a letter to the Supervicors.

Sign the Petition by Alliance for Desert Preservation.

See our letter to the County >>here.

Desert Tortoises and Mojave Yuccas Threatened by Utility-scale Solar: Yellow Pine Solar Project

tortoise

July 8, 2016 -- South of Pahrump, NV -- Laura Cunningham and Kevin Emmerich -- On June 26 NextEra filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada for a new 250 megawatt photovoltaic project proposed for Mojave Desert ecosystems with old growth yucca stands in Pahrump Valley along the Tecopa Road and close to the historic Old Spanish Trail.

But conflicts exist with land management here. This area was created to move tortoises out of harms way and to release tortoises that have been picked up or once have been pets. The Las Vegas, Nevada Desert Tortoise Conservation Center was closed in 2014 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service due to budget cuts. So these tortoises are tested for disease and released in the Pahrump Valley on two "translocation areas", Trout Canyon and Stump Springs designated last year. Now (July, 2016) the Bureau of Land Management will consider approving the Yellow Pine Solar Project on about 3,000 acres of this translocation site.

tall yucca

The proposed project site is less than a quarter mile from one of the tallest Mojave yuccas (Yucca schidigera) yet found. The project site itself contains numerous Mojave yuccas and Joshua trees, as well as healthy undisturbed old growth Mojave Desert scrub.

More >>here.

New Palen Solar PV Project Reactivated With Little Public Notice

June 21, 2016 - Palm Springs CA - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the re-awakened 500-megawatt Palen Solar Photovoltaic Project (formerly a concentrated solar thermal project) for 4,200 acres of undisturbed desert ecosystem west of Desert Center in the Chuckwalla Valley of Riverside County CA. See the BLM notice mailed to a few parties.

Basin & Range Watch has long been an intervenor in the former California Energy Commission proceedings (CEC), although the CEC does not review photovoltaic solar projects, only those that have a thermal energy component. In 2015 the project switched owners and the CEC had made a decision on jurisdictional matters to continue reviewing the case once the applicant changed the technology, but then denied a request to extend deadlines of the project in the matter of amended reviews. This means the CEC opted out of any further review, leaving the BLM as sole permitting agency along with Riverside County.

A scoping meeting will be held June 29, 2016 from 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM at the Palm Springs City Hall, Palm Springs CA 92262.

Comments will be collected until July 18, 2016.

This is a very short notice for a single public meeting for so important a project in the California Desert. We were only made aware of it by our extensive network of desert advocates, not by receiving a BLM notice. BLM should place this notice on their website. Public meetings should also be held in Blythe CA.

EDF Renewables is proposing single-axis tracking photovoltaic panels, but does not have a Power Purchase Agreement with a utility yet for the project that we are aware of. See more >>here.

Bats and Wind Projects: Study

June 10, 2016 - All energy sources have impacts, and why we support energy efficiency and distributed generation in the built environment first and foremost.

"A research review published in January of this year found that wind turbines are, by far, the largest cause of mass bat mortality around the world. White-nose syndrome, the deadly fungal disease that has decimated bat populations throughout the northeastern U.S., came in second."

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bat-killings-by-wind-energy-turbines-continue/

Nellis Test and Training Range Proposed Expansion

Amargosa

^The upper Amargosa River watershed which would be included in the proposed expansion.

June 8, 2016 - Following the approved Ft. Irwin and the 29 Palms Marine Base expansions, the US Air Force has a proposal to expand the boundaries of their range in central-south Nevada.

We talked to the Air Force about the large military expansion proposal for the range in Nevada which would potentially transfer up to 230,000 acres of public land to the military, mostly in the Mojave Desert.
They are proposing the following alternatives:


1. Keeping the existing range
2. Adding 18,000 acres to the base in the northern section
3. Adding 64,000 acres to the base along the west side of the South Range (this would include more of the upper Amargosa River watershed)
4. Adding 230,000 acres of land to the range along the east side of the South Range. This would all be BLM land and you would have no longer have access.


In August, scoping for Legislative Environmental Impact Statement will take place. At this time, maps will be released although the agencies have the maps now. This is all part of a request by Congress to expand the range and even remove some of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. More >here.

West Mojave Hammered by Energy Development

JT

^Piles of Joshua trees bulldozed for a utility-scale solar project (photo by Tony Molina).

June 8, 2016 - We believe this new solar project is called the Astoria Solar Project being built on about 2,000 acres of private land in the West Mojave Desert near Rosamond, California. Who needs biological diversity when you can bulldoze it all for a "green" solar project? This is the classic example of killing the planet to save it. More >>here.

Rail Storage Project Approved Near Pahrump, Nevada

Spring Range

June 2, 2016 - Pahrump NV - Mt. Charleston area seen from Carpenter Canyon, Spring Range, Nevada
This view will likely be quite different by this time next year. The Bureau of Land Management approved the Advanced Rail Energy Storage Project (ARES) in this location. It will extend far up onto this bajada. The proposed project is a 50 megawatt gravity based energy storage system that would be constructed on 72 acres (but will disturb over 150 acres for roads and transmission) of BLM managed public land.


We feel that the BLM undermined the visual impacts this development will have in their review. It will be visible from the summit of Mt. Charleston. BLM determined that over 4,000 Joshua trees and Mojave yuccas will be destroyed for the project. The project can only produce the full 50 MW capacity for about 20 minutes. More photos of the project site >>here

Multiagency Avian-Solar Interactions Workshop

CWG

May 26, 2016 - Sacramento CA - We hear a lot of comments that say, why care about birds dying in solar flux at power towers or colliding with photovoltaic panels in large-scale projects out in the desert, thinking they are lakes, why bother? The argument goes, so many more birds die from collisions with buildings or vehicles on highways, or are caught by domestic cats. Yet cumulative impacts should not be ignored -- why add even more sources of bird mortality? And importantly, largescale solar and wind projects are often placed in remote wildland habitats that do not have high mortality rates from structures or urban effects. Associated transmission lines add sources of mortality and disturbance. Species of birds such as golden eagle, which are not killed by domestic cats, are at risk from these largescale renewable energy projects. Many government agencies are concerned with avian mortality at solar projects, and this workshop focused on this.

About 70 people attended the Multiagency Avian-Solar Collaborative Working Group meeting, many from industry and government to discuss the issues. Only a few non-governmental orgnaziations were present, including Basin & Range Watch. Following are summaries of each presentation and our commentary. See our report >>here.

Eagle Surveys Taking Place at Crescent Peak Wind Project

May 23, 2016 - Clark County NV next to Castle Mountains National Monument in CA - The applicant for the Crescent Peak Wind Project is doing eagle surveys right now, according to Bureau of Land Management (personal coomunication), which is not following protocol. Using the contractor SWCA, surveys right now are to look for birds and bats, including eagles. US Fish and Widlife Service protocol for eagle nest surveys calls for surveys to be done in Fall and Winter for this geographic area. This is when eagles are beginning to nest. By May eagles have often flegded and nests may be unoccuppied. The applicant should be undertaking eagle nest surveys starting in November-December-January of 2016. See more >>here.

Ivanpah Power Tower Catches Fire

May 20, 2016 - San Bernardino County CA - Misalignment of mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System yesterday caused some to accidentally focus intense concentrated solar flux on the Unit 3 tower instead of the receiver. Damage was caused to steam pipes and the plant was shut down, reducing output of the solar project by a third. NRG told Bloomberg that no one was hurt and that the Unit is offline during damage assessment and development of a repair plan.

This is almost exactly what was predicted by expert witnesses in 2010 during the California Energy Commission (CEC) evidentiary hearings for ISEGS -- there was concern that if three mirrors accidentally misaligned together it could cause damage to something off the project site. CEC had an expert on this that was concerned a misalignment could aim toward drivers on Interstate 15 and cause damage to a person's eyes.

We speculate that perhaps the Ivanpah project is having problems with heliostats getting off kilter by the flooding that continues to happen through the solar field on the active alluvial fan they decided to build on, causing erosion around mirror poles. Plus mowing the desert there instead of grading might have allowed small burrowing animals like rodents to continue to live in the solar field, perhaps digging around heliostat bases. The poles were pounded/vibrated in, they do not have cement bases as far as we can tell. All this could cause small misalignments, throwing their precise heliostat geometric aiming off.

A good argument for smaller and distributed solar.

See the Las Vegas Sun: http://m.lasvegassun.com/news/2016/may/19/mirrors-blamed-for-fire-at-ivanpah-solar-plant-nea/

Eagle Take Rule Proposed by US Fish and Wildlife Service

May 7, 2016 - US Fish and Wildlife Service is issuing a proposed regulation that could allow wind companies to accidentally kill more eagles at wind turbine projects as long as certain mitigation measures are followed. The proposed revisions would be to the "eagle nonpurposeful take permit regulations and eagle nest take regulations" that were promulgated in 2009.

FWS also is issuing a "draft programmatic environmental impact statement" -- the previous regulation was tossed out because FWS did not do environmental review on it.

This new plan was developed after a federal judge in California blocked a 2013 rule that gave wind energy companies a 30-year permit to kill bald and golden eagles. The American Bird Conservancy was the sued and won initially to stop this rule from going forward, but now the administration has come back with a new proposed rule that allows greater Take of eagles.

There is a 60-day comment period on the proposed regulation and draft PEIS. See the Federal Register page >>here.

Wind Project Next to Castle Mountains National Monument Notice of Intent

April 23, 2016 - Crescent Peak Wind Project Update: Eolus Wind has submitted a Draft Notice of Intent (NOI) for the Crescent Peak Wind Project to be reviewed by the Bureau of Land Management. An NOI is the first stage of an official federal review of a big project like this. The BLM has placed the NOI on hold until October 1st, 2016 due to other large pending projects including a land exchange with Nellis AFB. But we could be engaged in this issue this coming fall.


The Crescent Peak Wind Project would be built on Nevada public lands and be adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve and the new Castle Mountains National Monument in California. It would surrond the historic Walking Box Rance and be visible from Searchlight, Nevada. A wind project surrounding Searchlight has been held up due to golden eagle and other wildlife threats. More >>here.

Interior Department Approves Soda Mountain Solar Project Despite Opposition and Lack of Need

Soda Mountain

^Desert lily and Moon, on proposed project site.

April 6, 2016 - San Bernardino County CA - The Interior Department approved the Soda Mountain Solar Energy Project next to the Mojave National Preserve against great public opposition. The project was reduced to 287 megawatts, on 1,767 acres of Bureau of Land Managament lands about six miles southwest of Baker, California. This was reduced from an originally proposed 2,222 acres. Yet Interior calls this site "disturbed," yet it is largely Mojave Desert creosote-bursage ecosystems, with areas of undistrurbed sand sheets and desert rock pavement. We have visited the site numerous times and witnessed beautiful wildflowers displays across the site.

More >>here.

Crimson Solar Project: Photovoltaic with Storage

Mule Mountains

March 27, 2016 - Blythe CA - A 4,000-acre, 450-megawatt solar proposal is proposed for Colorado Desert next to Mule Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Recurrent seeks to integrate storage -- such as battery banks or fly wheels -- with the solar field. But the area is home to desert tortoises, Mojave fringe-toed lizards, and possible elf owls and gila woodpeckers, as well as being important to Native tribal groups in the region. More >>here.

Ten West Link Transmission Project

March 26, 2016 - Western Arizona - Public scoping meetings for the Ten West Link Transmission Project (partially running through the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge) are taking place for a 500 kiloVolt transmission line in Arizona and California. Calendar of public meetings, map, and Federal Register notice >>here.

Bird and Bat Mortality Surveys Cut Back at Spring Valley Wind Project

April 2, 2016 - Eastern Nevada next to Great Basin National Park - While this project has one of the better monitoring programs we have seen, they still only surveyed a third of the project every two weeks. According to the Bureau of Land Management: Currently, there are no mortality surveys occurring at the Spring Valley Wind Project. Bat mortality surveys will resume again this fall and then bird and bat fatality monitoring will occur at year 5, 7, 10 and every fifth year following as outlined in the Avian and Bat Protection Plan. More >>here.

Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower Operational

Crescdent Dunes

April 2, 2016 - This photo was taken yesterday around 5:30 pm as the Crescent Dunes solar power tower appeared to be in full operational mode, creating a very bright solar flux as concentrated sunlight was aimed by thousands of mirrors at the central receiver on top of the tower to heat molten salt. More >>here.

Research on Bird Mortality at Photovoltaic Solar Projects in the Desert

March 29, 2016 - We have been following several large-scale photovoltaic power plants in the California and Nevada deserts in order to track monitoring of avian deaths and what best mitigation measures should be developed to minimize these deaths. Avoidance of flyways and creatin artifiical lake effects is always preferable, with solar panels being placed on rooftops and distributed urban locations the best option.

Now Argonne National Laboratory has published a reasearch report: A preliminary assessment of avian mortality at utility-scale solar energy facilities in the United States, with better numbers and assessments of this impact.

The research indicates that estimated annual utility-scale solar project related avian mortality to be between 16,200 and 59,400 birds in the southern California region, which was extrapolated to between 37,800 and 138,600 birds for all facilities across the United States that are either installed or under construction.

See a good blog post summarizing the subject at https://memoriesofthepeople.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/solar-arrays-in-the-desert-killing-more-birds-than-you-imagine/

Crimson Solar Project: Photovoltaic with Storage

Mule Mountains

March 27, 2016 - Blythe CA - A 4,000-acre, 450-megawatt solar proposal is proposed for Colorado Desert next to Mule Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Recurrent seeks to integrate storage -- such as battery banks or fly wheels -- with the solar field. But the area is home to desert tortoises, Mojave fringe-toed lizards, and possible elf owls and gila woodpeckers, as well as being important to Native tribal groups in the region. More >>here.

Ten West Link Transmission Project

March 26, 2016 - Western Arizona - Public scoping meetings for the Ten West Link Transmission Project (partially running through the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge) are taking place for a 500 kiloVolt transmission line in Arizona and California. Calendar of public meetings, map, and Federal Register notice >>here.

Lawsuit Delays Largest Desert Tortoise Translocation in History

March 17, 2016 - The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue on March 8 over military plans to expand the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms in California, requiring that around 1,500 desert tortoises be tranlocated over a five year period. This would be the largest translocation effort ever in the history of the desert tortoise. The notice, filed under the Endangered Species Act, argues that federal agencies have failed to fully examine how the relocations might harm the tortoises in the Mojave Desert. The Center is challenging the failure of the Bureau of Land Management and Marine Corps to consult adequately with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and fully address impacts both to translocated tortoises and to the habitat and tortoises already living in the relocation sites. More >>here.

Kern County Solar Projects in West Mojave Desert Impact Tortoises

Desert tortoise

March 16, 2016 - There are many new solar projects popping up in the West Mojave Desert of California, and we are trying to follow them. While many are on previously graded land such as old agricultural areas, a great deal of them are blading undeveloped desert ecosystems. One is right next to the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area. See more >>here.

Wind Energy-Free Designation Requested in Southern Nevada

March 6, 2016 - Basin & Range Watch recently requested a wind energy-free zone for the southern tip of Nevada, a land of dense Joshua trees, open desert, and winderness areas next to national park units. The request was made to Bureau of Land Management as they upsate their Southern Nevada Resource Management Plan. See the letter >>here.

Basin & Range Watch Sues Bureau of Land Management for Withholding Bird Mortality Information on Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower

February 29, 2016 - Basin and Range Watch filed suit last Friday under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain documents that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has refused to disclose about bird mortality during a testing phase for the Crescent Dunes Solar Project, a concentrated solar energy power tower located just north of Tonopah, Nevada, which went on line this month. Basin and Range Watch supports renewable energy, but also seeks transparency in government and an open public dialog about solar project impacts on public land that receive public funds. More >>here.

Rooftop Solar Controversy: Net-Energy Metering in Nevada

rooftop solar

February 17, 2016 - Shoshone CA - Our PowerPoint presentation on the controversy over net-energy metering policies in Nevada, given at the February 13, 2016 meeting of the Sierra Club California-Nevada Regional Conservation Committee -- Desert Committee -- download the 11 MB pdf >>here.

Three New National Monuments in the California Desert: Focus on Castle Mountains

Castle Mountains

February 18, 2016 - Castle Mountains National Monument was officially designated on February 12 by President Obama using the Antiquities Act after more than a decade of legislative work by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), as well as advocacy work by many environmental groups. Mojave Trails National Monument, Sand to Snow National Monument, and Castle Mountains will protect 1.8 million acres of desert lands. The Mojave Trails National Monument, at 1.4 million acres, links Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park, adding protection for important connectivity corridors for wildflife. All three monuments had proposed large-scale renewable energy projects over the years, so these designations permanently conserve desert ecosystems, cultural resources and history from energy threats. More >>here.

California Energy Commission Votes Against Granting Extension for Palen Solar Power Project

February 11, 2016 - In a surprise 5-0 vote the California Energy Commission denied an extension to the new owners of the Palen Solar Power Project, at a business meeting on the 10th. Commissioners heard comments by Andrew Bell, attorney for EDF Renewables (parent company to Maverick Solar LLC which recently acquired the Palen solar project). The Commissioners ruled on Petitions for Extension of Deadline for Commencement of Construction, and transfer of ownership of the project. Our analysis >>here.

Reactivated Crescent Peak Wind Project Threat to Castle Mountains National Monument Area

Crescent Peak

^Crescent Peak in a proposed wind project area near Mojave National Preserve.

February 5, 2016 - Clark County NV - Will there be a wind project next to the proposed Castle Mountains National Monument and Mojave National Preserve? Ironically, the new Castle Mountains National Monument in California, which may be created soon, has a reactivated wind energy application right next to it in Nevada. Eolus Wind has bought the applications for the Crescent Peak Wind Project (and Comstock Wind to the north near Virginia City, NV) and intends to file a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement with the Bureau of Land Management soon. The application spans nearly 40,000 acres and would be visible from the Castle Peaks, Wee Thump Wilderness, Walking Box Ranch, several Parts of the Mojave National Preserve, and Spirit Mountain. Eolus is saying they may want to use the newer 750 foot concrete based turbines which would be highly visible form the Mojave National Preserve. More >>here.

Office of Ratepayer Advocates Recommends Default for Ivanpah Solar Power Towers

ISEGS

^Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System under construction.

January 23, 2016 - The Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA), a part of the California Public Utilities Commission, protested Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) Advice Letter where PG&E sought CPUC approval of Forbearance Agreements between PG&E and Solar Partners II, LLC and Solar Partners VIII, LLC for Ivanpah Units 1 and 3. The Office or Ratepayer Advocates asked the CPUC to order PG&E to declare an Event of Default, saying it is in the best economic interests for ratepayers.

The actual costs to ratepayers from buying Ivanpah power is redacted in the ORA letter, but it is said to be excessively expensive, especially since photovoltaic solar prices have dropped hugely in recent years. Concentrated solar power plants have remained expensive to operate, and ISEGS especially so.

ORA also states that PG&E does not need Ivanpah to reach its Renewable Portfolio Standard goals, and recommends that the Energy Division of the CPUC allow the project to go into default. PG&E argues that they have an forbearance agreement that continues an uninterrupted stream of revenue, even if it is high-cost.

But ORA states, "declaring an Event of Default is the best, if not most, economic decision, based on the Commission’s principles of contract management and least cost dispatch."

ORA continues, saying "PG&E states the Solar Partner’s failure to meet its GEP [Guaranteed Energy Production] was a result of outages and reduced generation caused by the Solar Partners’ overestimation of generation forecast in their model, in addition to operation and management problems related to boiler issues, turbine vibrations, gas valve issues, steam tube leaks, unusually high cloud coverage." Basin & Range Watch during 2009-2010 evidentiary hearings with the California Energy Commission presented evidence about higher cloud cover in the eastern Mojave Desert due to summer monsoon activity which we believed was not taken into account. Further cloudy El Nino conditions have likely exacerbated generation problems due to winter cloudy days.

"While contracted prices may have reflected market value in 2009," ORA says, "it is
reasonable, due to the questionable operation and potential mismanagement of the projects, for the Commission to reevaluate the pricing terms and conditions adopted in the original agreements when considering adoption of PG&E’s advice letter request. It is also reasonable for the Commission, under these circumstances, to consider whether the past two years is sufficient time to evaluate project performance, and at what point it is in the ratepayers’ best interest for PG&E to declare a default."

"The Commission may have supported an innovative and promising technology when approving the initial PPAs, but the projects’ failure to delivery indicates that the technology is not successful in this instance."

If a default happens and operation ceases one possibility is that the federal government might take it over like they did the old Daggett solar power towe near Barstow CA, and keep it going as an "experimental solar plant."

Ironic how utilities are arguing over a few cents in Net Energy Metering cases of possible cost shifts to non-solar customers by residential rooftop solar customers, but PG&E is willing to shift this "excessively high" (to quote ORA) cost of Ivanpah onto all their ratepayers.

Daggett solar tower

^Former Daggett solar power tower near Barstow CA, now dismantled.

Solar Project Gets Utility Agreement Near Ash Meadows NV

Amargosa Valley NV - A Power Purchase Agreement has been signed for the Sunshine Valley Solar Project, a 100 MW solar project on 800 acres of private land located 8 miles from Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Amargosa Valley, Nevada. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that this project will kill Endangered Yuma clapper rails (and other birds). The project will be built in Nevada by First Solar and the power sold to Southern California Edison in California. More >>here.

Joshua Trees Destroyed for Solar Projects in West Mojave

Joahua tree

December 24, 2015 - Rosamond CA - Hundreds of Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) were chopped down and shredded to make room for utility-scale solar projects in the West Mojave Desert of Kern County CA.

http://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/residents-upset-after-hundreds-of-joshua-trees-are-cut-down-to-make-way-for-solar

Thanks to Randy Widmer for these heartbreaking photos of the Garland and Astoria Solar Projects built by Recurrent Energy and First Solar near Rosamond, California. Joshua trees, juniper and other plants are piled up and shredded. Solar panels will be placed here. More photos >>here.

Imperial Valley Solar and Wind Projects Update (and Other Developments)

Sunrise Powerlink

^View on the edge of the Yuha Area of Critical Environmental Concern of the Sunrise Powerlink and the Southwest Powerlink looking south to Mexico.

December 24, 2015 - Yuha Desert, Ocotillo, Imperial County CA - Our friend Terry Weiner of the Desert Protective Council sent us this report with photos updating the status of recent solar installations, as well as the Ocotillo Express Wind Project in the west side of the Imperial Valley. Other developments include large-scale transmission lines and the border wall along the US-Mexico border. See >>here.

Ivanpah Towers Face Default with PG&E Contract

December 23, 2015 - Two of the units of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System are underperforming and not meeting their PG&E Power Purchase Agreement. The other unit has a PPA with Southern California Edison. PG&E subsequently gave the owners six more months to try to meet minimum requirements for power generation.

B&RW during 2009-2010 California Energy Commission evidentiary hearings pointed out there was higher average cloud cover from summer monsoons in the east Mojave compared to west Mojave, and many intervenors showed how the shadow reaching across the landscape from adjacent Clark Mountain (7,933 ft in elevation) would shade the project earlier in the day. The project was approved anyway.

http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/12/15/nrg-ivanpah-faces-chance-of-default-PGE-contract

http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/12/22/pge-wants-to-give-ivanpah-plant-more-time-to-meet-power-targets

New Palen Solar Power Project Owner Seeks 6 Month Extension and Switch to Photovolatic

December 23, 2015 - Maverick Solar has petitoned the California Energy Commission (CEC) for an extension of the deadline for commencement of construction by 12 months, following another extension to June 2016 for the developer to submit a petiton to amend the Palen Solar Power Project. Also the developer is seeking to switch to photovoltaic technology, from solar trough CSP technology.

See the CEC petition >>here.

Change of Ownership of Palen Solar Power Project

December 16, 2015 - Riverside County CA - On December 15 Palen SEGS I LLC petitoned the California Energy Commission for a transfer of ownership of the Palen Solar Power Project to Maverick Solar LLC out of San Diego, a subsidiary of EDF Renewable Energy (formerly enXco). EDF Renewable Energy is the US subsidiary of EDF Energies Nouvelles, an arm of the large European utility EDF group. The company develops photovoltaic solar and wind projects. The Palen project will likely move to a PV technology, from CSP.

The company also requested a 12 month extension of the start of construction date.

http://docketpublic.energy.ca.gov/PublicDocuments/09-AFC-07C/TN207034_20151215T171720_Petitioner_re_Transfer_of_Ownership.pdf

Carbon Sequestration Values of Deserts

December 5, 2015 - The 2014 paper Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration in National Parks (PDF >>here) in the US, by the National Park Service and US Geological Survey, shows high values for desert parks in California of storing carbon dioxide in terrestrial ecosystems: Joshua Tree National park, Mojave National Preserve, and Death Valley National Park. See Natural Resource Publications.

Photos of Construction at Blythe Solar Project

bulldozers

December 4, 2015 - Blythe CA - The following photos are of the construction of the Blythe Solar Power Project, covering 4,000 acres of public lands on the Palo Verde Mesa just west of Blythe, California. The site was home to several archeology sites, Pleistocene desert pavements with old, rounded river cobbles, old growth desert ironwood trees and other microphyll habitats. This is all being converted to a large photovoltaic facility. The developers are using newer mitigation techniques such as vegetation mowing instead of vegetation scraping and "paddle scrapers" to minimize impacts to desert pavement. The photos come from the construction compliance reports that the developers are required to submit to the California Energy Commission during construction >>here.

Abengoa Starts Insolvency Proceedings: Palen Solar Project In Question

November 27, 2015 - The Spanish solar company's shares dropped as it announced insolvency proceedings; it has four months to reach a deal with creditors or potenitally face bankruptcy. This brings into question whether the company has the ability to continue to develop the Palen Solar Power Project in Riverside County CA which it recently took over from BrightSource Energy. Abengoa needs to have its new plan of development to the California Energy Commission by December 22, 2015.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/11/25/abengoa-gonvarri-idUKL8N13K16B20151125

Federal Judge Rejects Environmental Group Challenge on Ocotillo Wind Project

November 22, 2015 - The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that environmental groups including the Desert Protective Council had not shown that the Bureau of Land Management acted arbitrarily in greenlighting the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility project in the desert east of San Diego.

The three-judge panel said BLM did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, as the environmentalists claimed, because BLM “sufficiently evaluated and disclosed the environmental impacts of the Ocotillo wind energy project.”

Basin & Range Watch placed a Freedom of Information Act request on this project. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was not completely satisfied with the qualifications of some of the raptor biologists hired on the Ocotillo Express Wind Project. The environmental review, in our opinion, may have been flawed.

http://www.governorswindenergycoalition.org/?p=15176

Eagle Mountain Pumped Hydro Storage Project: Ask the Department of Interior to Protect Joshua Tree National Park

November 14, 2015 - ACTION ALERT! Eagle Crest Energy (ECE) has proposed its Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project for an area immediately adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park. Email Interior Secretary Jewell Secretary_jewell@ios.doi.gov and National Park Service Director Jarvis Jon_Jarvis@nps.gov, and tell them you encourage them to halt negotiations with ECE and challenge this project in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to protect Joshua Tree from an environmental disaster. More >>here.

Final Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Announced

November 10, 2015 - Washington DC – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird today announced the final environmental review of the landscape-scale blueprint to streamline renewable energy development on 10 million acres of federal public lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the California desert. The release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Phase I of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is part of agency pushes to streamline renewable energy on public lands. More >>here.

Highlights:

--Silurian Valley is protected, but Soda Mountains solar project development area is not.

--The beloved Trona Pinnacles area is made into a new very large Devlopment Focus Area.

--802,000 acres of new "Unallocated Lands" are suddenly open to utility-scale renewable energy development.

--There is a 30 day protest period.

 

HOME.....News page 2.....News page 1