October 07, 2010

Destructive Ivanpah Solar Project approved in Mojave Desert Core Habitat

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Destructive Ivanpah Solar Project approved in Mojave Desert Core Habitat
Renewable energy coalition calls for halt to misguided industrial development on fragile wildlands

October 7, 2010: Solar Done Right (SDR), an influential coalition of conservationists working to halt the development of industrial energy projects on intact southwestern habitat, slammed today’s decision by the US Interior Department to approve the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS).

“The project hemorrhages the very heart of the biologically rich eastern Mojave Desert, where plant diversity rivals that of the primeval coastal redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest,” said SDR member Jim Andre, who serves as director of the University of California’s Granite Mountains Desert Research Center. “This area is treasured by scientists throughout the world for its unparalleled pristine quality among deserts, one of the last functional ecosystems left on Planet Earth.”

“Every time I hike in Ivanpah Valley I find something new,” said Nevada wildlife biologist Laura Cunningham of SDR. “Migrating gray vireos, black-tailed jackrabbits, western banded gecko hunting insects at night, or intact cryptobiotic soil crusts covering the ground. This site is rich in life and needs to be preserved, not industrialized.”

A new study by The Nature Conservancy affirms the ecological importance of the Ivanpah site. In its September, 2010 “Mojave Desert Ecoregional Assessment,” TNC assigned the Ivanpah site to the top priority conservation category “Ecologically Core” lands, of which lands the report’s authors said “[t]heir full protection is critical for long-term conservation of biodiversity in the Mojave Desert.”

“This project is financed with roughly $2 billion of our taxpayer dollars and is being built on our public lands,” said Sheila Bowers, an clean energy advocate in California. “Any power produced here is going straight to other sunny California locations, so wouldn’t our money be much better spent on PACE loans so that residents could produce the same amount of clean, affordable power from our homes and businesses, where the power is needed?”

“I hope the public understands: this is land that belongs to all of us,” said Janine Blaeloch, Director of Western Lands Project in Seattle, Washington, and a founding member of SDR. “It is nothing short of tragic that we would do this when we could generate power in urban areas instead.”


ISEGS, which would replace 3,600 acres of old-growth Mojave Desert with an industrial facility immediately adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve, has been roundly criticized by conservation organizations as needlessly destructive of critical habitat for the desert tortoise and other threatened species.

The Nature Conservancy report ” Mojave Desert Ecoregional Assessment 2010” is available for download at

Solar Done Right, founded in the summer of 2010, is a coalition of public land activists, solar power and electrical engineering experts, biologists and others around the country who view with concern the rush to develop our few remaining wild lands for industrial solar energy.

In the months since SDR’s founding, the group has helped stage and participate in a protest encampment at the proposed Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station site, and met with dozens of Congressional and agency staff in Washington, DC to promote its approach to renewable energy development.

Solar Done Right holds that there is a proper hierarchy of priority for strategies to end our nation’s addiction to fossil fuels.  We should start the switch by using the most cost-effective strategies for renewable energy production, which also happen to be the least environmentally destructive. In descending order of priority:

1) Reduce demand.

2) Generate renewable energy at or near the point of use.

3) Generate renewable energy on a larger scale within the built environment.

Solar Done Right contends that a mix of these techniques can meet our electrical energy needs without large remote concentrating solar projects. However, should it turn out that after every practicable effort is made to reduce demand and generate renewable power at the point of use some form of remote concentrating solar turns out to be necessary, such projects should be restricted to heavily degraded land that offers no wildlife habitat, agricultural, or similar values, and to technologies that do not deplete scarce water resources. Public and private wild lands and productive agricultural land should never be converted to large-scale renewable energy production.  Visit the SDR website at