Basin & Range Watch
Defending the Desert
A 501(c)(3) Non-profit organization
Basin and Range Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to conserve the deserts of Nevada and California and to educate the public about the diversity of life, culture, and history of the ecosystems and wild lands of the desert. Federal and many state agencies are seeking to open up millions of acres of unspoiled habitat and public land in our region to energy development. Our goal is to identify the problems of energy sprawl and find solutions that will preserve our natural ecosystems, open spaces, and quality of life for local communities. We support energy efficiency, better rooftop solar policy, and distributed generation/storage alternatives, as well as local, state and national planning for wise energy and land use following the principles of conservation biology.
Come visit and experience the great beauty of spring wildflowers, vast open vistas, bird watching trails, and wildlife viewing.
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.
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
June 2, 2016 - Pahrump NV - Mt. Charleston area seen from Carpenter Canyon, Spring Range, Nevada
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.
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.
Interior Department Approves Soda Mountain Solar Project Despite Opposition and Lack of Need
^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.
Crimson Solar Project: Photovoltaic with Storage
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.
See News from the last 4 years >>here
^May 2016 - Beehive cactus (Coryphantha vivipara) in the New York Mountains, Mojave National Preserve CA after good April rains.
Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) >>here
Inyo County Renewable Energy General Plan Amendment>>here
Las Vegas Resource Managament Plan >>here
Eagle Mountain Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project
An area that should be part of Joshua Tree National Park, in Riverside County CA. Related to the renewable energy projects along the I-10 corridor >>here
ARES Rail Storage Project
Advanced rail energy storage project in Pahrump NV on the alluvial fan of the Spring Range >>here
Solar Projects (Active):
Blythe Solar Power Project
A huge 1,000 MW photovoltaic panel project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County with a 5,950 acre footprint. Cultural issues, Fringe-toed lizards, and Desert tortoise are concerns. >>here (under construction)
Crescent Dunes Solar Project
Solar Reserve Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. A 100 MW power tower project with molten salt storage, near Tonopah, Nevada >>here
Crimson Solar Project
Recurrent seeks to construct a 4,000-acre 450-megawatt photovoltaic project with storage near Blythe, in Riverside County, California>>here
Desert Quartzite Solar Farm
A 2,500-acre photovoltaic project by First Solar near Blythe, in Riverside County, California >>here
Desert Sunlight Solar Farm
A large-scale First Solar photovoltaic project in Colorado Desert area of Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County, California >>here (in operation)
I-10 Corridor Projects in Chuckwalla Valley >>here
Genesis Solar Energy Project
NextEra Energy proposes to build a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant near Ford Dry Lake in Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County, CA. Water is a concern. >>here (under construction)
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System
Luning Solar Energy Project
100 MW photovoltaic project in Mineral County, NV >>here (approved)
McCoy Solar Power Project
750 MW photovoltaic project in McCoy Wash, Riverside County near Blythe CA, by NextEra Energy. >>here (under construction)
Owens Valley Solar Projects
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and private companies are planning on developing large-scale solar facilities in Owens Valley in eastern CA at various locations. See >>here, and LADWP Solar Ranch; Northland Solar Project
Palen Solar Electric Generating System
500 MW solar power plant in Chuckwalla Valley ten miles east of Desert Center CA, on good Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat. Abengoa Solar. >>here
Silver State South Solar Project
Photovoltaic panel proposal in Ivanpah Valley, Clark County NV >>here (under construction)
Soda Mountain Solar Project
Photovoltaic panel proposal in San Bernardino County CA>>here
Last Spring at Soda Mountain? >>here
Stateline Solar Project
Sunshine Valley Solar Project
A 110 MW photovoltaic project by First Solar on private land in Amargosa Valley NV that is close to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refgue. Federally Endangered Yuma clapper rails may be threatened by the "lake effect" of the solar panels >>here
Solar Demonstration Area in Nevada Test Site by Department of Energy >>here
Wind Projects (Active):
Crescent Peak Wind Project
Reactivated wind project in Clark County NV next to proposed Castle Mountains National Monument and Mojave National Preserve >>here
Ocotillo Express Wind Facility
Pattern Energy's project on the boundary of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Imperial County CA >>here (online)
Spring 2011 Field Trip >>here
Mohave County Wind Farm
On the White Hills and fan next to Lake Mead National Recreation Area in northwestern AZ, near Mt. Tipton Wilderness and by places where California condors have been sighted from Grand Canyon reintroductions >>here
Searchlight Wind Energy Project
Duke Energy's proposal to place giant wind turbines over the Searchlight Hills, Clark County NV >>here
Silurian Valley Wind and Solar Project
Iberdrola plans on various wind and solar projects in this remote Mojave Desert valley southeast of Death Valley National Park, San Bernardino County, CA >>here (Solar project rejected by Bureau of Land Management)
Spring Valley Wind Energy Project
Pattern Energy wants to build up to 85 giant 400-foot tall wind turbines in Spring Valley east of Ely NV, 12 miles from the boundary of Great Basin National Park. The site is home to Pygmy rabbits, Sage grouse, and Pronghorn antelope >>here (online)
Coolwater-Lugo Transmission Project
A large Southern California Edison transmission project from Barstow CA south along State Route 247 which would open up huge swaths of desert and threaten local communities with energy sprawl >>here
Eldorado-Ivanpah Transmission Project
Southern California Edison proposal to upgrade and add lines in southern NV and eastern CA in Ivanpah Valley, to deliver future renewable energy to coastal cities >>here (completed)
Southern California proposed mega-powerline to supposedly link wind and solar in the eastern deserts and Baja, Mexico to coastal cities in San Diego County CA, but also tied to fossil fuel >>here (completed)
SCE Proposes two New Renewable Energy Transmission Projects in the Mojave Desert >>here
Inactive or Withdrawn Solar Projects:
Amargosa Farm Road Project
Proposal with storage in Amargosa Valley, Nye County NV >>here (not active)
Big Dune Solar Prohject
7,500-acre project in Amargosa Valley NV by Pacific Solar, on rare and endemic beetle habitat >>here (inactive)
Calico Solar Project
Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System
BrightSource Energy's second solar thermal power tower proposal in Mesquite Valley, Inyo County CA >>here (withdrawn)
Imperial Valley Solar Project
Former Tessera Stirling dish project on 6,500 acres sited on archaeologically sensitive Colorado Desert with Flat-tailed horned lizards, west of El Centro, Imperial County CA >>here (withdrawn)
Lathrop Wells Solar Facility
An older Abengoa application. In Amargosa Valle NV, a 250-megawatt parabolic trough solar thermal plant that may be upgraded to 500 MW, with 70 MW photovoltaic >>here (withdrawn)
Lucerne Valley Solar Project
Chevron Energy Solutions is proposing to build a 516-acre photovoltaic project on Mojave Desert with Joshua trees and tortoises in Lucerne Valley CA. Some call the area disturbed, but we disagree >>here (inactive)
Rice Solar Energy Project
A 500-foot tall power tower in a remote CA desert by Solar Reserve >>here (inactive)
Ridgecrest Solar Power Project
Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating System
BrightSource Energy's third solar thermal power tower proposal along the Colorado River near Blythe, San Bernardino County CA>>here (inactive)
Inactive or Withdrawn Wind Projects:
Granite Mountain Wind Energy Project
RES proposal to place wind turbines on a roadless pristine mountain in San Bernardino County CA, home to the rare Ford's Indra swallowtail >>here
Wilson Creek/Table Mountain Wind Project
This project has been canceled. A proposed 990 MW wind farm on 30,000 acres of beautiful Great Basin mountain range with elk and sage grouse, a popular recreation area in Lincoln County NV near Pioche >>here (withdrawn)
Wind Project Impacts - Photos of Construction in the Mojave Desert and Tehachapi Grassland >>here
Wind Project Proposed for Eastern Edge of Joshua Tree National Park >>here
Inactive Transmission Projects:
Green Path North Transmission Project
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power high-voltage line would cut through Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in San Bernardino County CA >>here (not active)
Better Renewable Energy Alternatives:
CALL to ACTION for ENERGY DEMOCRACY
Sign the Petition by Solar Done Right (scroll down to petition on left front page)
This initiative will bring citizens together to demand a more cost-effective, faster, less damaging, and more democratic path to renewable energy. Our goal is to move renewable energy development away from our ecologically rich and agriculturally important lands and onto rooftops and already-developed areas. Solar Done Right will take this petition to top energy policymakers in our government: the White House, Department of Interior, Department of Energy.
Desert Tortoise Recovery: Science and Politics Clash >>here
New Desert Tortoise Species Described, Mojave Population Unique, Implications for Big Solar and Conservation >>here
Revised Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Fails to Address Renewable Energy Sprawl >>here
Golden Eagle Research in the Desert: Renewable Energy Impacts >>here
BRW Recommends Agencies Follow the Final Report of the Independant Science Advisors to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan >>here
Desert Pavement: A Natural Soil Type >>here
Sand Lizards of the Desert: Fringe-toed Lizards >>here
Flat-tailed Horned Lizard in Trouble in Imperial Valley, California >>here
Evolutionary Hotsports in the Mojave Desert >>here
Carbon Sequestration in the Desert: Dr. Michael Allen Paper on Gaps in Desert Research >>here
Letter From an Ecologist: Solar Development Threatens the Desert >>here
Renewable Energy Issues >>here
Calendar of Comment Deadlines
US Fish and Wildlife Service Proposed Rule Change for Eagle Take Permits -- July 5, 2016 >>Federal Register
Palen Solar PV Project comments on scoping -- July 18, 2016 >>Frank McMenimen BLM
Sign the Petition: Save Searchlight Desert and Mountains >>here
"Streamer" Video Obtained by Basin & Range Watch of Crescent Dunes Solar Project Birds Vaporizing >>here
Net-Metering Rooftop Solar Presentation >>pdf
More Renewable Energy NEWS >>here
MINING NEWS >>here
"In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe."
--Edward Abbey, 1967, Desert Solitaire
"Polite conversationalists leave no mark, save the scar upon the earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground."
MORE CARTOONS >>here.
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