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BILBRAY COAUTHORS BILL TO EXEMPT SOLAR FARMS FROM ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW; FEINSTEIN SEEKS TO BLOCK DESERT SOLAR FARM DUE TO SEVERE ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE




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By Miriam Raftery

March 23, 2009 (San Diego)--Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-San Diego) has coauthored H.R. 964, a measure that would exempt any solar energy project on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands from Environmental Impact Report requirements. Sempra Energy, Bilbray's third largest campaign contributor, seeks to import power from desert solar farms on BLM lands.

 

On Friday, California's Senator Diane Feinstein sent a blistering letter to the Secretary of the Interior opposing solar farms on BLM lands, citing massive environmental damage from scraping bare a half-million acres of desert lands proposed for solar mirrors.

 

"It would destroy the entire Mojave Desert ecosystem," David Myers, executive director of the Wildlands Conservancy, said of a Mojave Desert solar project which Feinstein seeks to block. Solar farms would do great harm to the desert tortoise, a threatened species and California's state reptile, he warned.

 

Gary Thomas, a board member of the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep, charges that "those (energy) farms are nothing more than an open pit mine without a pit. They are going to go in and clean everything out to bare dirt, then they fence them and everything that was living in that place will be gone."

 

Lands for the Mojave project were donated or purchased with intent that they would be protected forever. But now, BLM considers the lands to be open to all developments except mining. In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (http://yubanet.com/california/Desert-Protection-Feinstein-Seeks-to-Prese...) , Feinstein wrote, "This is unacceptable. I urge you to direct the BLM to suspend any further consideration of leases to develop former railroad lands for renewable energy or for any other purposes." Feinstein has announced her intention to block solar power from desert lands in the Mojave and have the acreage in question declared a national monument. The Democratic Senator cites concern over severe environmental impacts. Nineteen companies have submitted applications to build solar or wind facilities on half a million desert acres. Feinstein said development on sensitive acreage in the Mojave would violate the spirit of conservationsts' intentions when they donated lands to the public.

 

The Wildlands Conservacy, which helped fund the government's purchase of the land from 199-2004, is opposed to solar projects on the lands. But H.R. 964, the Emergency Solar Power Permit Act coauthored by Bilbray, would amend the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 to exempt any action relating to development, deployment, or operation of a solar energy project from environmental impact statement (EIS) requirements on lands owned by the BLM. The bill's 17 cosponsors are all Republicans.

 

The Obama administration and the Democratic Party both support development of renewable energy such as solar. Yet no Democrats felt compelled to support a bill that would cut out all environmental review in order to fast-track solar projects on desert lands.

 

Why might Bilbray be so interested in eliminating environmental protections to make it easier for massive solar farms to be built on formerly protected federal lands? Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas & Electric(SDG&E) (www.sdge.com) has announced intentions to bring 300 to 900 megawatts (MW) of solar power from Stirling Energy Systems (SES), a Phoenix-based company (www.stirlingenergy.com ). Under the plan, SDG&E would buy electrical energy produced from a solar farm consisting of 12,000 solar dishes in the Imperial Valley. SES also aims to build a 500 MW solar project in the Mojave Desert northeast of Los Angeles to include 20,000 dishes. Sempra Energy was the third largest donor to Bilbray's campaign in 2007-2008, forking up $10,750 to help him win reelection. (http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00006981)

 

Larry Hogue of the Desert Protection Council described details of potential damage to desert wildlife and terrain in his blog (http://www.dpcinc.org/blog/2008/12/03/problems-with-big-desert-solar ) "We don't see forests being clearcut to make way for solar mirrors, because that would clearly be absurd. Yet thousands and even millions of acres of desert are currently proposed to be scraped to make way for solar power plants and their accompanying transmission lines," he wrote.

 

Scraping bare vast areas in the desert would cause damage that could take eons to heal, he warned, noting that plant growth and soil creation rates in the desert are very slow. "This kind of direct habitat destruction is the main cause of the massive extinction event the Earth is currently experiencing," he said, adding that the desert tortoise (California's state reptile) and the Mojave ground squirrel, both listed as threatened species, would be seriously harmed by solar farms in the desert. "Creating such vast swaths of destroyed habitat to provide energy for human use is no greener than any other type of habitat destruction," he added. Hogue said scraping deserts for solar farms could actually contribute to global warming. "As reported here previously, studies have shown that the Mojave Desert in particular stores as much carbon as some temperate forests," he wrote. "Scraping the ground cover, including microbiotic crusts, would remove this function of the desert as a carbon sink, offsetting to some (currently unknown) extent the greenhouse gas reductions provided by the solar power project."

 

Concentrating solar power plants also use two million gallons or more per megawatt per year when they are "wet-cooled," Hogue reported. "One 280-megawatt plant proposed in Arizona is projected to use 600 to 700 million gallons (1900 acre-feet) each year. Where will that water come from? This is a desert after all. Will it come from our dwindling and over-subscribed Colorado River supply? Or from the desert's own scant groundwater, vital for maintaining many desert habitats?" Impacts from pumping desert groundwater would extend far beyond the projects, he warned. "The decline of mesquite groves around Borrego Springs is just one example of the impacts of groundwater pumping. Since the groundwater could eventually run out completely, this practice is by definition not renewable."

 

Sean Gallagher, vice president for Stirling Energy Systems, said the company's project proposed for the Plaster City area in Imperial County would not "scrape" vast areas of the desert bare. "Our technology has numerous environmental advantages, including the lowest water use of any electric generating technology, minimal grading and trenching requirements, no excavation for foundations, and the highest sun-to-grid efficiency of any solar generating technology, which minimizes both cost and land use," Gallagher said. Instead, the project calls for a dish system on pedestals. "We expect that much of the land that we will use will be able to re-vegetate. We are also not planning to build in most wash areas, where a good deal of the vegetation is found," he noted. The company does not yet have a position on the Bilbray bill, he said, adding that Stirling expects to go through a full environmental review.

 

But environmental advocate Jeanette Hartman had this to say. "The Sierra Club position is that the Stirling technology is unproven at the commercial level and is therefore not suitable as a key part of a major industrial project," she oserved. "In addition, the Stirling project is inconsistent with the plan prepared by Bill Powers,which was endorsed by the Sierra Club. The Powers plan calls for "In-Basin" power production using upgrades to existing lines and use of small peaker plants. Even if the Stirling technology were proven to be commercially viable, the need for a major transmission line like the Sunrise Powerlink and access roads expand the impacts of such as system considerably beyond those stated by Stirling."

 

Feinstein is not opposed to all solar farms, only those in the most sensitive habitat regions. But others who oppose desert solar farms contend that better options exist to meet future energy needs by harvesting solar or wind energy closer to home. Some cities are experimenting with new incentives for rooftop solar on a large scale, for example. Gainesville, Florida, recently introduced "feed in tariffs" for home and business owners who install solar panels. Salon.com reported the Gainsville is "essentially requiring a local utility to pay a guaranteed sweet rate for the next 20 years for all solar-generated electricity, creating a big incentive to install those panels." In Berkeley, Calif., the city will front costs for homeowners to install solar and gets paid back through an increase in property taxes over 20 years. Both programs are so popular that the cities aren't accepting any new applicants for now.

 

Even some utility companies are now working to provide incentives for locallly-generated solar. Southern California Edison is developing a massive 250-megawatt project to put solar panels on 150 commercial buildings, totaling 65 million square feet of solar cells in southern California. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will put 400 megawatts worth of solar panels on city-owned rooftops, parking lots and reservoirs by 2014.

 

"They're proposing photovoltaic projects on a scale that's as big or bigger than these big solar desert projects," says Bill Powers, a San Diego energy engineer. (For details, see http://www.salon.com/env/feature/2009/03/23/power_lines/index.html) .

 

Supporters contend that those measures are inadequate. Besides Bilbray, defenders of desert solar farms include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a speech at Yale last year, the Governor complained, "If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave desert, I don't know where the hell we can put it."

Great

Well, solar farms are great source of energy but this will harm the the desert tortoise. There's always advantage and disadvantage when it comes to a thing. Decision making is really risky.

hire a scientist

We need it

Solar projects need to be pushed ahead. There will always be someone with an issue about any project but these projects are so important to the future of our country.

Solar energy is the future.

Solar energy is the future. Also windmills if they can be set up in targeted locations.

Tom and Jerry Games

Wow! This is one great project. They are giving mother nature a big favor by building such solar farm. I wonder how much the whole project cost? Hmm.

Solar farms can be a

Solar farms can be a positive solution to most of our energy problems but on the other hand, there are still disadvantages which may harm every human being.Above all, i certainly like reading this blog! so informative and i learned a lot about this Solar farm thing which is new to me.

solar

AAARRGGGHHHH If we can't make electricity, then who's going to decide what days the brownouts are on. I'm not exactly thrilled with the amount of mercury being spewed into the air from burning coal. We're fighting a war or two over oil. Nuclear has too many risks for my tastes. AND NOW THE POOR TURTLES are stopping solar!

clean energy should be given priority

Clean energy should be encouraged. We can utilize areas such as desert for production of clean energy. everest base camp trekking

studies have shown that the

studies have shown that the Mojave Desert in particular stores as much carbon as some temperate forests. I am totally impressed reverse mortgage

Very impressed

I am very impressed with this post. I think unusable lands such as deserts are best option for installation of reusable energy infrastructure such as windmill and solar panels. everest base camp trekking

best utilize resources

We could utilize unportective deserts for installation of solar energy panels. trekking in nepal

the plant growth and soil

the plant growth and soil creation rates in the desert are very very slow.

Scraping bare vast areas in

Scraping bare vast areas in the desert would cause damage that could take eons to heal, he warned, noting that plant growth and soil creation rates in the desert are very slow. "This kind of direct habitat destruction is the main cause of the massive extinction event the Earth is currently experiencing," he said, adding that the desert tortoise (California's state reptile) and the Mojave ground squirrel, both listed as threatened species, would be seriously harmed by solar farms in the desert. "Creating such vast swaths of destroyed habitat to provide energy for human use is no greener than any other type of habitat destruction," he added. Hogue said scraping deserts for solar farms could actually contribute to global warming. "As reported here previously, studies have shown that the Mojave Desert in particular stores as much carbon as some temperate forests," he wrote. "Scraping the ground cover, including microbiotic crusts, would remove this function of the desert as a carbon sink, offsetting to some (currently unknown) extent the greenhouse gas reductions provided by the solar power project."

Lands for the Mojave project

Lands for the Mojave project were donated or purchased with intent that they would be protected forever. But now, BLM considers the lands to be open to all developments except mining. It must be protected at all times and at all cost.

I'm confused!!!

So, solar farms are not environmentally friendly... I'm confused!!! Back to burning wood, gas and gasoline again? Doesn't make any sense at all.

The East County Chamber of

The East County Chamber of Commerce boasts that its “support helped make Sunrise Powerlink a reality”. Here is a quote from a 02/11/09 article on the chamber website: “The San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce support was critical to the recent approval of the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Every project has some side

Every project has some side effects. I think the benefits of solar farms are much larger than damage. That power will protect many other areas of complex ecosystems, not as the poor areas of the desert. For the first time the desert can do something and then some people stand up so hard.

About time we support solar

I think within 50 years, we will be using renewable sources only, no more coal or oil. I plan on buying a RV and hooking it up with solar panels too.

very interesting

Supporters contend that those measures are inadequate. Besides Bilbray, defenders of desert solar farms include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger . In a speech at Yale last year, the Governor complained, "If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave desert, I don't know where the hell we can put it."

Why destroy the entire

Why destroy the entire ecosystem Majave Desert? means this is very dangerous. I hope to think first of its impact.

Why?

It is about time people take action and stop these money craving people of ruining the Mojave Desert by building solar farms. There are so many other places where you can build these farms. Why ruin the desert ecosystem? Regards Mike

the city will front costs for

the city will front costs for homeowners to install solar and gets paid back through an increase in property taxes over 20 years. Both programs are so popular that the cities aren't accepting any new applicants for now.

Go Solar Energy

Solar energy is the way to go for the future and clean energy.

WOW!

It is important in factors of environmental damage is terrible.

solar power is for environmentalist

Solar power plant is pro environment. It help conserve the power resources in compare to coal and water source plant.  I prepare to see the bill pass or be exempted against the Environmental law. 

It's a good a;alternative for

It's a good a;alternative for power supply. Farmers can save a lot from this invention.

Support Solar Technology

We’ve got to support solar technology, with the number of filthy coal-powered plants still being brought online, even with all we know about pollution and the problems with burning non-renewable products, it’s astounding that there are still some people out there who oppose the use of solar energy and other renewable resources. This looks to be a great development that will save thousands of pounds of CO2 from being produced every year. We should embrace it instead of oppose it. Al

Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas

Sempra Energy's San Diego Gas & Electric(SDG&E) has announced intentions to bring 300 to 900 megawatts (MW) of solar power from Stirling Energy Systems (SES). This is really gonna be great.

Regards,
Deandre Jay - san diego real estate

Solar Power

How come people don't take this solar power more seriously.. won't it be great if the energy can be used to replace oil and stuffs...

by Thor with Portable Water Purifier

Solar is the future

I believe we need to expand our solar capabilities and rely less on fossil fuels. This is where we are going and we need to be prepared as a country.
color changing solar lights | solar garden spotlights

These Are Not Low Maintenance Solar Panels

Looking at the picture, these are not low maintenance solar panels, but solar thermal generators with mirrors which need continual cleaning and maintenance. You'll need water to clean the mirrors which shine the sunlight on the central pillar housing the generator, and you'll need to grease the bearings, joints and motors which move and point the mirrors in the right direction throughout the day. And who is going to clean out the joints after a sandstorm or dust storm? What's the cost of replacing the mirrors and motors and other mechanically failure-prone stuff?

This sort of setup is very different from a simple solar panel which you anchor to a fixed position on the ground and then pretty much forget about it (except for the occasional cleaning).

Solar power isn't the only option for cutting carbon usage. Another option that needs to be revisited is to improve the efficiencies of coal and oil-fired power plants. Many of these (in the US) are using older less efficient designs with only 36% to 40% efficiencies, unlike those in Germany (Boxberg power plant) and Japan (Tachibana-wan) which are up to 48% efficient (reference: chapter 2 of Steam turbines for modern fossil-fuel power plants By Aleksandr Shaulovich Leĭzerovich and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel_power_plant).

Calvin (Rig Welding Jobs)

get backlinks

They won't be happy until we just don't use energy at all.

Solar farms...why not

I believe it is to find the balance between nature and reusable energy. The same thing is happening for palm trees in Asia. Bio fuels are good but people have to clear natural forests to plant palm trees which defeats the purpose of saving the environment.

Not too sure..

It seems to me that maybe this isn't the best idea.. Shouldn't we be more prepared and ready for the future with these solar farms.

Stop human grow too quick

To solve many issues in the world such global warming is to SLOW DOWN human grown. Most of things will be back to normal if the human growth is slowed down. Look at China where there is 1 child policy, does it breach human liberty? YES, but it is good for all of us the rest of the world. Less people less problem, less people less food required, less land field required for farming, less petrol , less everything. Global warming can be avoided by doing this in cooperation with all nations in the world. 1 child policy for the next 15 years.
toko obat

its just a desert

i do not think that the desert is a very bad place to put solar panels... there is not too many people that use that area for recreation is there? also that picture is crazy! is that a real place? - mike @ insurance forum

solar energy in my opinion -

solar energy in my opinion - is the energy of the future

Keep in mind, that only about

Keep in mind, that only about 3 percent of the world’s desert land area would have to be used for power generation, to supply all of humanity’s energy needs. Compare that to logging all of the world’s rainforests and using that land for growing energy plants for bio-fuels, which could still only meet a small percentage of our energy needs. Also there are many different CSP technologies, and they have very different requirements as far as land use goes. Many do not need a leveled, scraped-bare ground to build on, and many do not need water for cooling, either. So not all CSP technologies destroy all of the desert area they are built on.

extrapolate that society

We can therefore extrapolate that society must soon decide either to raise the quality of debate on issues surrounding Congressman Brian Bilbray's ultra-sadistic manuscripts or else to let Congressman Brian Bilbray send irritable tax cheats on safari holidays instead of publicly birching them.

Those measures are inadequate.

If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave desert, I don't know where the hell we can put it.

we cannot just let nuclear

we cannot just let nuclear facilities keep running when we can use alternatives. 

Solar energy

Solar energy remains one of the greenest electricity source available now, we cannot just let nuclear facilities keep running when we can use alternatives. Solar panels may have some inconveniences, but they are insignificant compared to the danger of nuclear power.

The Holding Utility Companies

The Holding Utility Companies and Arnold wanted Californians to think they where doing us a favor by derailing the so-called fast tracking environmental destroyers of Prop 7. Little did they want us to know that California's ISO was already given the green light on all the queued up energy projects that have ALREADY been fast-tracked for the last two years by both state and federal directives that circumvent our Congress and California political bodies.

desert solar

Thanks for bringing us this critically important information, and digging up so many key points. Fast-tracking hard-won environmental laws is never a good idea, and it's clear those who want to do it either don't understand, are exceptionally ignorant how we are all survivors of the same ecosystem, or simply don't care about our planet's present and future. Bilbray makes me shudder. Thanks go to Feinstein for stepping up.

Great Article

This is a great piece of journalism! It really gets to the heart of the debate and shows what is going on in the background. It is not about clean power for the people, but the power of the utilities over the people.

Holding Company Shill Billbray

If I am not mistaken or deceived didnâ't the CPUC lawyers and Arnold argue against Proposition 7 , the solar initiative, that proponents would "fast-tract" projects and harm the "environment."

The Holding Utility Companies and Arnold wanted Californians to think they where doing us a favor by derailing the so-called fast tracking environmental destroyers of Prop 7. Little did they want us to know that California's ISO was already given the green light on all the queued up energy projects that have ALREADY been fast-tracked for the last two years by both state and federal directives that circumvent our Congress and California political bodies.

This was the part of deception by the anti-7 factions whom are busily fast-tracking even more now since Arnold went and egged them on. In a January 5th memo to Obama, the Gov asks to "Waive or greatly streamline National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requirements consistent with our statutory proposals to modify the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) for transportation projects." The truth is it is not just transportation, but the desert and delta projects too. The economic downtrun argument is just flat out pretense. And now comes Holding Company Shill, Congressman Brian Bilbray, who has no pretenses and flat out calls now for no EIR whatever. Hey Bill just where will all the water come from to keep clean and maintain all these panels? I'm just a window cleaner but that would be my first EIR question.

How about hiring more people to undertake the EIR process to help pick up the pace instead dear Bill? Lets make up for the underfunding and catch up at the same time? While a pleasant surprise to see Senator Feinstein to weigh in on this issue the funding for proper EIR's needs greater diligence.

This course of Arnold's "streamlining" of the CEQA process has put him up there possibly now with Kempthorne and his gutting of the Endangered Species Act. Will the Natural Community Conservation Planning called for really protect the desert? What if a species range is in both fed and state properties? Are both state and the feds off the ESA hook now? And what a shame that the Nature Conservancy may have fronted for this.

So what is the real purpose of this classic bait and switch. How is it the Arnold could be so hypocritical post prop 7's defeat? Because the Holding Company Utilities and Arnold do not want to share in the investors pie. Neither the Solar pie, the Wind pie, nor the Geothermal pie or the Coal pie too and all the Commodities that seem to be all that is left of our natural resources.

Get in now after all taxpayers are footing the bill for the the Sunrise Transmission line so why not take advantage of nabob Chairman CPUC Peevy's call for this boondoggle against his staff recommendations. On federal land there are no royalties and rent is supposed to be in full only after three years of project operation. I checked and the historic rent has been increased 20 % already since I checked last month. So much for "historic." What a fleece.

The grander scale of this is an attempt by "financialized" unregulated Holding Utitlity companies to lockout even the California home owners from their rooftops and solar easements and from getting their own solar payments and make them pay for the transmission too boot. Matter of fact just what does the state get in return for use of state lands? I mean why change the goal post for Renewable Energy Credits now Gov?

Second of all why change the goal from 20% to 33% without first asking why the Governor failed to make the first goal which stands around 10.6. SCE CEO Bryson has already said the utilities would not make this target before he even retired. The solar incidence on the rooftops of California residents could easily cover this 9.4 shortfall in Renewable Energy Credits. I would as a home owner with some front end help go solar and sell all my excess to the Utilities and let them have the Rec's if it would at all help reach the current target 2010 goal of 20%. And stop the postponing of carbon reductions.

So please Governor one target at a time if you will. And no scrimping on a full EIR process anywhere on any property. After all what is the point of having a State and Governor if there is going to be by all likelihood nothing left to protect or defend. Climatologist Jim Hanson has already called this kind of delay a crime against humanity.

I am not deceived like Mr. Billbray. It is high time to cook the Big Bad Wolf.

I am Citizen Michael John Keenan

http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/Published/Report/88422.htm

http://gov.ca.gov/index.php?/press-release/11073/

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