Renewable Energy Industry CEO looks to the future

Suggests government policy/subsidies – not free market – give wildlife conflicting, utility-scale projects an edge over distributed generation

Desert Tortoise © Dr. Michael Connor, WWP

NRG Energy CEO David Crane, lead investor in the controversial Ivanpah Solar Thermal Energy Project, discusses why giant utility-scale renewable energy projects are economically viable and what the future might look like for renewables with a reduction of government subsidies:

NRG Energy’s CEO Discusses Q4 2010 Results – Earnings Call TranscriptSeeking Alpha

[We] fully recognize that the current generation of utility-sized solar and wind projects in the United States is largely enabled by favorable government policies and financial assistance.  It seems likely that much of that special assistance is going to be phased out over the next few years, leaving renewable technologies to fend for themselves in the open market.  We do not believe that this will be the end of the flourishing market for solar generation.  We do believe it will lead to a stronger and more accelerated transition from an industry that is currently biased towards utility-sized solar plants to one that’s focused more on distributed and even residential solar solutions on rooftops and in parking lots.

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Ivanpah solar project would disturb thousands of desert tortoises

Desert Tortoise, Dr. Michael Connor

The Ivanpah solar thermal project consists of 5.4 square miles of high quality habitat for the Endangered Species Act protected desert tortoise, a fact that developers (and some investors) underestimated resulting in the temporary suspension of activities on phases 2 and 3 of the project site due to construction activities exceeding the incidental take limit (number of tortoises allowed to be disturbed) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set at 38 Endangered Species Act protected desert tortoises.

The temporary suspension of activities prompted the Bureau of Land Management to take a closer look, and issue a Revised Biological Assessment   () estimating the number of desert tortoise the project may impact given what we now know.  As it turns out, the initial incidental take limit of 38 was off the mark to the tune of thousands of desert tortoises:

More than 3,000 desert tortoises would be disturbed by a solar project in northeast San Bernardino County and as many as 700 young ones would be killed during three years of building, says a federal assessment issued Tuesday.

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BLM halts some construction at Ivanpah Power Plant

Threshold Number of ESA Protected Desert Tortoise Killed In Construction of Solar Thermal Plant

We just received notice that the BLM has suspended construction of some of the the Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power Plant due to the project reaching its upper limit number of tortoise killed for the Biological Opinion and incidental take limits established in approving the project.

BLM halts some construction at Ivanpah Power Plant – Decision

Ivanpah solar project could displace 140 tortoises

Previous estimate was 32-38

The Bureau of Land Management has increased the estimate of how many desert tortoises will be displaced by the Ivanpah solar plant in southern California just southwest of Las Vegas. The previous estimate was that there would only be 32-38 tortoises displaced by the development. They now estimate that there will be 140 of the endangered tortoises displaced by the 5.6 square mile development. The new estimate has required the BLM to seek new consultations with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Previous attempts at moving tortoises to new locations have resulted in half of the tortoises dying and similar number of resident tortoises dying at the relocation site due to displacement. If this relocation effort has similar results then it would result in 140 dead tortoises.

Tortoises are long living creatures that mature at age 15 and can live up to 80 years or more. They have declined by as much as 90% since the 1980’s due to habitat destruction and increased predation by ravens which thrive in areas where they previously didn’t because of human trash and livestock which die or leave birthing materials in the spring. They also are illegally collected by people who want them as pets. Land development, such as BrightSource’s Ivanpah solar plant, are also becoming threats to their survival.

Read more about Ivanpah

Ivanpah solar project could displace 140 tortoises.
The Press Enterprise

Biologists scour Mojave in desert tortoise roundup.

What has this society come to?
Construction of the Ivanpah Solar plant starts.

Clear the land of life for power generation that could be achieved by installing solar panels on rooftops where it is used. The bulldozers, fences, and powerlines are next.

The science shows that half of these endangered desert tortoises will die and an equal number of the tortoises that will be displaced but the moved tortoises will die as well. It’s all a charade under the guise of GREEN ENERGY that is being greenwashed by many of the big “conservation” groups.

Other alternatives were never examined because that would get in the way of the profits of those big power companies who will profit at the expense of the taxpayers and more importantly habitat and wildlife. There is a playa just across the freeway where Bob Abbey, the director of the BLM, likes to landsail. It was never considered as an alternative site.

The effort in San Bernardino County’s panoramic Ivanpah Valley, just north of Interstate 15 and about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas, disrupted complex tortoise social networks and blood lines linked for centuries by dusty trails, shelters and hibernation burrows.

Biologists scour Mojave in desert tortoise roundup
Los Angeles Times

Environmentalists make plea for desert preservation

A group of environmentalists says renewable energy goal shouldn’t come with destruction of native plant, animal life

Sunset © Ken Cole

The Ivanpah Solar site lies on public lands in the center of very important desert tortoise habitat so the company proposes to move those tortoise to a new area before construction begins. This is a strategy that has been tried in the past that resulted in utter failure. Even the environmental impact statement acknowledges that one in six will die after being moved.

Renewable energy is important, but where it is placed matters. Is it right to be placing these giant wind and solar power projects and the additional power lines on vast swaths of public lands that are important habitat areas for many imperiled species or would it be better to place the power generation where it will be used? Rooftop solar is a viable alternative with the prices of solar panels dropping. Simply using the heat of the sun to heat homes and water results in significant energy savings. Do we need more power? Do we need to destroy our public lands when a more distributed model of energy production is possible?

Environmentalists make plea for desert preservation
Las Vegas Sun