California Solar-Thermal Power Project Bumped For New National Monument

ivanpah solar power plan photo

Proposed Ivanpah CA Solar Power Complex. Image credit:Brightsource.

In 2008 we learned that - BrightSource [was] to Build 500 Megawatts of Solar-Thermal Power in Mojave Desert. By fall the proposed project had become a very visible symbol of a bright future for concentrated solar power (CSP) in California. See Matt's story: BrightSource & Bechtel Partner for 440 MW of Solar Thermal Power Plants. Seems there has been a change of plans: but for good reason.Environmental News Service reports:

The site of the proposed solar power tower project is in a remote wildland area being planned for inclusion in a new national monument proposed by California Senator Dianne Feinstein.

"I commend BrightSource Energy for this action," Senator Feinstein said in a statement. "It's clear that conservation and renewable energy development are not mutually exclusive goals - there is room enough in the California desert for both."

In March, Feinstein announced her intention to introduce new legislation to establish a national monument to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres in the Mojave Desert.

No finger pointing at environmentalists and elected officials.
Don't be blaming Califronia elected officials or "environmentalists" for displacement of the project site. Brightsource's initial site selection process was flawed. They certainly should have realized that development plans based on a 2008 Bush Administration reversal of a conservancy status would be challenged in 2009. From New York Times here is the background:
The land was donated by Wildlands [Conservancy] to the Interior Department during the Clinton administration, with assurances from President Bill Clinton himself, the group says, that it would be protected in perpetuity. But the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a Bush administration initiative, opened the land to the development of solar projects.
This abrupt change of plans reminds me of the 150 or so coal-fired generation projects announced during the last few years of the Bush Administration, a majority of which have since been slowed, canceled, or are still under challenge. Yes, I am really saying that renewable energy developers can be as prone as coal plant developers of making a bum's rush on irreplaceable natural resources.

What's the right way to site renewable energy projects?
From the developer standpoint, it's not by lobbying. Nor, by relying on Federal legislative earmark. Like all politics, you start local, then work your way up the governance and community chain. First approach interest groups like Wildlands Conservancy, stating a broad interest in developing reliable sources of renewable energy in the area. Ask for suggestions on good places to install such projects with minimal environmental conflict and/or reasonable potential to mitigate potential impacts.

The horn that most gored the green ox, by the way, seems to have been the endangered Big Horn Sheep. From the the Times again:

The plant would have been "at the heart of a signature valley" filled with bighorn sheep and other natural treasures, said Mr. Myers, who added that he hoped BrightSource would now find a "more appropriate site."

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20MW Solar Tower Project: Just the Beginning

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