Posting in Cities
Environmental groups have largely approved BrightSource's 3,500-acre solar farm in the Mojave desert, despite the accompanying ecological destruction.
A minor city is springing up in the middle of the eastern California desert, an hour's drive from Las Vegas. A wastewater processing facility and a power plant will serve Ivanpah's denizens -- namely BrightSource's 170,000 or so mirrors for concentrated solar power that are expected to generate enough power for 140,000 homes at peak generation.
Meanwhile, the development has displaced endangered desert tortoises, driven birds from the site, and all vegetation in the 3,500-acre area has been clipped at the precise height to fit under the mirrors.
But, as the Los Angeles Times reports, environmental groups have mostly given BrightSource a free pass for developing the solar farm. The Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council have kept quiet; The Center for Biological Diversity agreed to not make a fuss in exchange for conserved land elsewhere.
The silence is because of the trade-off environmentalists face: to go for the long-term good and push for sustainable energy, or save a few species? Or wait, maybe it's the other way around: invest in the latest solar innovation in lieu of millions of years of evolution? Either way, its the question groups are facing, not just at BrightSource's solar farm in Ivanpah, but at other sustainable energy sites worldwide.
"I have spent my entire career thinking of myself as an advocate on behalf of public lands and acting for their protection," said Johanna Wald, a veteran environmental attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "I am now helping facilitate an activity on public lands that will have very significant environmental impacts. We are doing it because of the threat of climate change. It's not an accommodation; it's a change I had to make to respond to climate."
Maybe the clearing of thousands of acres of animal and plant life isn't iching any environmentalists because it's in the middle of the desert. The Mojave is home to Death Valley, frequented by windstorms and gets around 13 inches of rain each year -- not exactly a top vacation slot.
On the other hand, the Ivanpah plant sits adjacent to three National Parks: Joshua Tree, Death Valley and the Mojave National Preserve. And the diversity of these ecosystems is surely underestimated as soon as the word 'desert' is uttered. The Mojave National Preserve alone is home to 900 species of plants and 300-plus species of animals.
It's easy to argue that displacing such wildlife is acceptable at a single site, especially if it's a trade for 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, as estimated. But it does set a bit of a dangerous precedent. Are US deserts now free for all solar development? Will Western US -- and deserts worldwide -- just become a giant solar farm, and would that be a good idea?
Photo: Flickr/Steve Jurvetson
Feb 4, 2012
Sacrificing wildlife can't be the solution,wildlife is also much important and we can't let harm this living being just for our profits. http://www.hksconsultants.com/
The one and only reason they are allowing it without a fight because of the man made global warming panic. I think doubts on the validity of that argument are creeping in, with good reason. They are thinking, what have we done? Did we just push the desert tortoise into extinction based on lies?
This article touches on a very important topic, which, broadly construed, is how we should plan for a transition to renewable energy and how we can do this in the most participatory, least-harm way. But the suggestion that environmental groups sat by and did nothing is incorrect. The LA Times didn't have its facts right either, which is a danger of rerunning their story. Look at the California Energy Commission intervenors listed in the ISEGS (Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station) case. The Sierra Club, Defenders, CBD, as well as Basin & Range Watch and Western Watersheds and California Native Plant Society, all spent countless hours intervening in this case-- they did not "keep quiet" as you report. The siting case went on for years. The plans for mitigation and plant design shifted quite a bit over this time, though in the end most of the groups voiced their cotinued opposition at the hearing when the California Energy Commission voted to approve the site. Western Watersheds is currently suing over the project. Unlike what the LA Times reports, there were at least three protests at Ivanpah, one led by a Native American group that protects sacred sites. I'm guessing the NRDC quotes in the LA Times were taken somewhat out of context- NRDC was only tangentially involved in Ivanpah and they never formally issued an opinion on the case.
Why must there always be extremes. It's either this, or that. Take it or leave it. I don't accept that. There must be a middle ground where co-habitation becomes possible but I guess that's not ranking high on people's priorities. Juan Miguel Ruiz (Going Green) http://www.GreenJoyment.com
There is an underlying tone to this article that has me perplexed: it reads as if the environmental community is biting their tongues to not bring up the local habitat issues that are potentially compromised by building this project. And yet when I went to the BrightSource website, I found out the following facts: -they went through a rigorous series of environmental assessments, including the high bars set by NEPA and the California Environmental Quality Act, passing with flying colors. This was not only a scientific assessment but included meeting key stakeholders and developing mitigation plans which included things like not grading the sites and clipping, not removing extant vegetation. -when they found in their continuing monitoring of the site that there were more endangered tortoises that initial censuses indicated, they scaled back the size of the project by 500 acres. None of this sounds like what the tone of your article implies. It seems to me that projects like this are being sensitively sited to minimize their habitat impacts, including using disturbed ground, sites close to existing transportation and transmission infrastructure, etc. It also sounds like they are learning and adjusting to what the data indicates is needed. What more do you want?
The fifties view of the year 2012 was one of flying cars, floating houses and one man jet packs. That is exactly how the future will look at us and with solar and wind. Back in the 1900's they wondered where we would put all of the horses needed by now. The occupy movement is the leading edge of progressivism yet Occupywallstreet's list of demands does NOT include climate change crisis. Why? Because of Kyoto's bank-funded "carbon trading stock markets" ruled by giant corporations and or politicians taxing the air we breathe. Obama has not mentioned the "crisis" in his last two state of the union addresses. Move on folks. The good news is that the crisis was an exaggeration, proven by the fact that millions of people in the global scientific community choose not to act like it???s a real crisis. That would be one big protest if the world of science got of its throne. It was a consultant's wet dream. Move on.
We can bend the light from the sun with mirrors and deserts,small intense beams directed at nitrogen ball,this beam will heat the nitrogen and cause it to expand,use this pressure,to drive a compressor engine witch drives the generators.Simple.
the telescope in space is just mirrors,turn the big end too the Sun and turn the small end to a receiver,then focus the light down to a beam.easy as pie?
Make the bloody deserts receiving stations from Mirrors in Space where there tons of room,direct the light to a receiver of nitrogen which will power a combustion engine too turn a huge generator.Why Not?
Like that's the only place where desert tortoises live. The future will tell whether the "man made global warming panic" is lies or not. I'd bet a bunch of money that it is not.
Global warming will become a "crisis" once enough people perceive how much it affects them directly. But by then it will be too late to prevent a lot of bad things from happening.
Even if you put the power production in space you still need to set up an antenna farm on the ground to collect the power beamed down. The power beamed down would be in the form of microwaves rather than sunlight. I'm not sure it would be any better than just putting the array on the ground.