The Problem

At a meeting with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at the small rural desert town of Beatty in late 2008, we were told what plans outside corporations have for us, and for our beautiful wide open spaces. Several large solar facilities are being speculated on public lands in Nye County, western Nevada. See MAP.

^Concentrated solar power plant in the Mojave Desert.

Permit applications are pouring in to BLM offices in Tonopah and Las Vegas to secure land. Most of the solar facilities will be wet cooled solar trough or Fresnel mirror systems and will require about 5 acre feet per of water per megawatt. Because there are several proposals, the amount of water that will be needed is significant.

The largest current concentrated solar plants today generate 80 megawatts (Mw) of electricity(on good days); the Beacon solar project in Kern County uses 6.4 acre-feet per Mw, adding up to 1600 acre-feet in a year. With five or six of these proposed in Amargosa Valley alone at potentially 200 to 1,000 megawatts each, it looks as though the potential use of groundwater would be enormous. Tom Seley, the field manager of the Tonopah BLM office said that the locals should "be concerned".

The water would come from the Amargosa River/ Ash Meadows aquifer. Aside from the obvious blemish this would inflict upon the landscape, the impacts to biodiversity and rare desert springs are unmistakable. Water use of this magnitude could have severe impacts to the water level in Devil's Hole, endangering the Devil's Hole pupfish even more than it already is as well as the many rare and some endangered species in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The Ash Meadows region has the highest number of endemic species of any place its size in the United States.

Such an extreme water withdrawal could dry up parts of the Amargosa River near Shoshone/Tecopa. This water is the source of fossil water that keeps the springs in nearby Death Valley National Park flowing.


The Solution

Plenty of alternatives exist for using alternative energy, especially relocalization, better urbal planning, and true efficiency.

^Solar panels over a parking lot in the city.

Instead of scraping up huge acreages of pristine desert for corporate-controlled solar plants which will require new powerlines to deliver energy hundreds of miles to distant cities, we can encourage more local production and control.





New Powerline Gets Green Light to Connect Renewables. Read it>>

Strange Bedfellows: FoxNews helps the Desert? Read it>>

Arnold Seeks to Terminate Environmental Laws. Read it>>

Big Solar Wants Your Water Rights. Read it>>


Green Energy vs Actual "Green" Energy

"The costs of industrializing the biologically rich California deserts will be measured in terms of species extinction, ecosystem degradation and the perpetuation of human self-deception."

-- Bruce Pavlik (from Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2009 >>here)

November 1, 2008 - The Southern Nevada Desert, by AT.

When we came out of the theater in 2005, we were cheering Al Gore for having the guts to stand up to the most corrupt presidential administration in history. After all, the Bush Administration has done everything in their power to silence the facts about climate change.

^Location of proposed powerline corridor in the Amargosa River wetlands, Nevada.

So we have to do something about this, don't we? I have wanted to put my house on a complete off-the-grid solar and wind system for years. I just never had the 45 to 50 grand required to do so. I always thought I should be able to buy these supplys cheaply at the Home Depot or Lowes or even, dare I say it, the dark side of the force, Wal-mart. All we ever had was Real Goods who charge 150 dollars for a pair of eco, free trade sunglasses. Their solar supplies were always off my affordability charts. I assumed this was because most large retail chains were in bed with most conventional energy giants who have always felt threatened by those of us who would rather make our own energy than pay our monthly 200 dollar electric and gas bills. In this economically devastated year of 2008, it seems as though the big energy boys have found a solution.

Before I elaborate, I want to say that I have no arguements that humans have contributed so largely to climate change that we have impacted our forseeable future to a point of no return as well as the future of many of the the species we share this beautiful planet with. This is in no way, a challenge to the reality of climate change. I have lost faith in current mainstream culture's most famous icons of environmental activism. These include, not in any order, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Greenpeace, Al Gore, Carl Pope, the director of the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defence Council. There are many more and I'm sorry if I have not included everybody. Now we must factor in Wall Street and people like oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens.

Today we can buy our clean energy from a big power company and feel good that everytime we fire up our compact florescent bulbs, that we are not melting the ice caps. Just don't break that bulb. Yes mercury can kill us even faster than global warming! Where will all this clean, geen energy come from? Your public lands, that's where.

Green or $Green$?

The Bureau of Land Management has received over 200 applications to build solar plants on federal land in recent years. In California alone, there are 80 proposals on 700,000 acres. In Nevada, BLM has accepted about 130 applications, including 23 in Clark and Nye counties, to build solar plants. There are over one million acres of public land in the six states that are being considered for sacrifice.

How ironic that this so called "green revolution" has taken the irresponsible direction of so much environmental destruction. Why not just use the countless rooftops and vacant space of the millions of developed urban acres in the southwest? Could it be that urban environmental planning is considered too costly? We are baffled by this because it defeats the purpose of green.

The use of so much land for wet-cooled parabolic trough systems requires 5 acre feet of water per megawatt. The five plants planned for Amargosa Valley, Nevada, propose to generate from 150 to 1,000 megawatts, so we are looking at over 10 million gallons of water a year. This water is fossil water believed to be tens of thousands of years old, not recharged since the last ice age. Even if they buy out the private water rights, there still would not be enough to supply this massive use of water. Devil's Hole, Ash Meadows wetlands, and springs of Death Valley (all home to a great diversity of endemic pupfish) would be dried up.

How is this green? Will the new administration protect our water? Obama is not likely to trash the Endangered Species Act, yet Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of the desert when asked about driving between Las Vegas and Reno, "There's a lot of vacant space, couldn't we do something in some of that area with renewables? Of course we can." Are the Democrats really as environmental as they want us to believe? Or are they taking major contributions from big energy companies who where the Green banners so the profits will keep coming in?

Reid also said, "The biggest problem we're having now with what has been done is twofold: With the military with the windmills, and it messes up their radar. I've spoken with the Secretary of Defense and he cleared a number of places where they're going forward with large numbers of windmills. The second problem that we have is the desert tortoise, an endangered species". So protecting an endangered species is now considered an obstacle to development? Somewhere lost along the way is the so-called environmental responsibility the Democrats were so supposedly committed to. Could the only green here be considered the green on a dollar bill? Will our beloved Democrats sacrifice the deserts which are part of this Earth simply because they are too ignorant to understand ecology? Perhaps.

And what about global warming? Desert plants and soils store carbon better than most northern forests. Desert plants are masters of storing carbon. CAM ("crassulacean acid metabolism") plants are plants that use certain special compounds to gather carbon dioxide (CO2) during photosynthesis. Using these compounds allows these plants to extract more CO2 from a given amount of air, helping them prevent water loss in dry climates. So what happens when you scrape up the desert and remove all of these carbon holders? You get more green house effect! Mr. Gore equated this to the loss of tropical rain forests in his film, but I guess he was sick the day his science teacher was talking about the desert.

^Creosote (Larrea tridentata).

Recent findings indicate that certain desert ecosystems are EQUAL TO TEMPERATE FORESTS AND GRASSLANDS in their rapid absorption of CO2, and may exceed those systems due to the desert's possible "processing" of CO2. It also appears that it is the soil itself acting as the carbon sink! The story is here.

This view has not seemed to find its place yet. I have had both liberal and conservative people shout, NIMBY at me. Nimby?, I asked. Is that Australian? So I did the standard google search and found that NIMBY stands for, Not In My Back Yard.

Really? That's all that means? Why is that bad? Loving your backyard sounds like a good thing to me. I think this would be a much better world if everybody loved their back yard. My back yard has a lot of open space and wetlands. It supports a diversity of plant and animal species. This is my backyard:

Amargosa Desert

Oasis Valley

Sarcobatus Flat


See the latest NEWS >>Amargosa Desert Water Rights Fight

^The desert before... Amargosa Valley, Nevada and California.

^And after... Western Mojave Desert in California freshly scraped up for development. This is the kind of footprint that concentrated solar power plants will need to begin building.

^Solar One Nevada, a parabolic trough reflector system on a scrape that was once creosote desert south of Las Vegas. The ground is sterilized.

^The Amargosa Desert looking south along the western edge, with the underground river flowing to the left.

^Ash Meadows pure freshwater spring bubbling up out of the ground from limestone aquifers (Nye County, Nevada).

^Turquoise blue Ash Meadows pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis mionectes) float in clear springwater.

^Saratoga Springs in Death Valley National Park, Inyo County, California, downstream from Ash Meadows. More endemic pupfish inhabit these waters.

^Desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii).

^Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera), Amargosa Desert.

^Cottontop cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus).

^Amargosa River canyon lush with Honey mesquite and willow south of Tecopa, California.

^Red-shouldered hawk in a cottonwood. These uncommon and beautiful birds are completely dependent on riparian trees fed by groundwater along the Amargosa River drainage.

^Fishhook cactus (Mammillaria sp.) in bloom.

See the Amargosa Conservancy at, a group working to save the land, water, and beauty of the Amargosa River.

Also see Daniel Patterson's blog, from Arizona, where similar issues will occur.

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2/09 Update on Amargosa Solar Projects