News 3...2...1

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:

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


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:

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


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:

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 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:

The CEQ is still described on this Department of Energy web page (

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, 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:

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


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 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, 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


^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


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


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


^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.

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:

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 (

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


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."

Nellis Test and Training Range Proposed Expansion


^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


^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


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:

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

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


^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.

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.

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.

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


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.

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.

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 and National Park Service Director Jarvis, 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.


--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.


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