Conservation Alert, 2012 Mar | Desert Solar and Wind

Greg Suba, CNPS Conservation Program Director, has provided us with a lot of information on the conservation concerns with Desert Solar & Wind Projects:

Desert Solar & Wind Development Links

Take Action

CNPS asks you to consider signing a petition, created by desert conservation groups, to elevate BLM land management protection for the whole of Ivanpah Valley, in CA and NV. The Ivanpah Solar project represents a “threshold” project heralding the review and possible approval of more massive projects in the area. To prevent further ecological damage to this desert valley identified as core, intact desert habitat by recent studies, there is a petition to nominate the valley as a BLM Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). There are significant rare plant populations and plant communities threatened in this valley, and these are described in the ACEC petition. This nomination campaign needs individual signatures, which can be provided on-line. Please consider signing the petition, …

Thank you,
Greg Suba

LINK to ACEC petition language

LINK to ACEC nomination sign-on campaign

There are 2 other important online petitions to support rooftop solar.

One is the Solar Done Right group’s Call to Action for Energy Democracy. They are asking for organizations to sign on. CNPS State office has signed on, but I encourage Chapters to do the same. HERE is the link to their Call to Action webpage. You can read / download their 2-page action statement and find information on how to sign on as an organization (Chapter). There is also an option to sign on as individuals rather than organization HERE.

The other is Environment California’s A Million Solar Roofs initiative. Individuals can sign on to their on-line petition to show support for more rooftop solar in CA.

Here’s a link to their webpage about this, which itself has a link to the sign-on petition.

A most informative website that tracks desert solar issues well is:

Basin and Range Watch

By the numbers

The total number of acres under development threat in the desert right now is a moving target that is difficult to assess. This is because there are acres of both individual project applications as well as acres of proposed Solar Energy Zones where development would be focused through regional plans. Both these categories have the proverbial bullseye targets on them.

Here is a document I received from a colleague at Defenders of Wildlife that tracks solar and wind projects by County within the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP area). The Acreage Rule of Thumb is as follows:

Solar project facility acreage requirements:   7.1 acres / MW

Wind project facility acreage requirements:   40 acres / MW

The take home point of the attached table: Utility-scale projects with applications already in the pipeline and/or under construction meet and exceed the amount of renewable energy generation needed for Californians to achieve our 33% by 2020 target. So…how about those rooftops?

Main positions taken by CNPS

The main points that the conservation director has been advocating for, on behalf of CNPS at meetings, in comment letters, and in outreach materials are:

  • we need to transition to renewable energy sources ASAP, CNPS supports renewable energy development
  • we recognize some of this will occur in the desert and elsewhere in the form of large-scale projects and associated transmission lines, however
  • the large-scale facilities with overland transmission paradigm must be limited to least-ecologically damaging lands, and decreased as the predominant source of future energy generation in favor of
  • greater reliance on distribute energy generation
  • large-scale projects that are constructed in the desert must be restricted to energy development zones being developed through the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), and the BLM Solar PEIS
  • we do not favor the “variance option” in the BLM Solar PEIS which would allow for additional development outside of identified Solar Zones

Here’s a link below to our webpage that contains CNPS comment letters on the DRECP and Solar PEIS.

In the News

If you read / watch nothing else, please check out THIS 12 minute news piece about Ivanpah and desert solar that aired in late January on KCET in LA. And as an added native-plant focused bonus article, read THIS accompanying KCET blog post about ancient plants of the desert. And pass the links on to others.

Here are some recent and timely LA times articles:

a map of BLM desert project locations (with MW/project, not acres unfortunately), and

and a recent LA Times story

some good images that go along with the LA Times article

Is California getting the wrong kind of solar? – Elias, Davis Tribune

Federal Government betting on the wrong solar horse – Bill Powers

Here are links to other materials by category:

Distributed Generation

Solar Done Right

Their publication Wrong from the Start is important reading

Local Clean Energy Alliance of the Bay Area

Their publication Community Power is also important.

Environment California

Their recent report California’s Solar Cities 2012 made news in Sacramento.

Their report A Million Solar Roofs spells out how we can get there. You can also sign on to their online petition.’s-progress-toward-million-solar-roofs

CLEAN Coalition –

Energy Conservation and Use-Efficiency

Solar Planning

DRECP – this process has begun accelerating to an HCP/NCCP DEIS/DEIR deadline of early June!


CNPS comments on both these planning processes

And for the brave of heart – video of vegetation clearing during construction at Ivanpah

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