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September 13, 2010

Press-Enterprise: Scientists say desert solar, wind projects should tread lightly

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The Riverside Press-Enterprise, long known for some rather thoughtful environmental reporting, has a winner in this article. The piece, by P-E staff reporter David Danelski, builds on the report compiled by a panel of independent scientists as input into the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), a process mandated by California Governor Schwarzenegger to smooth out the pesky roadblocks to energy development offered by the nation’s environmental protection laws.

That report was rather devastating to the developers, as the scientist panel unilaterally recommended a “no regrets” policy in which the built landscape and seriously degraded lands would be the foicus of renewable energy development, and wildlands or productive ag land converted only as a last resort. Danelski’s piece puts it bluntly:

The scientists say big solar, wind and other energy projects should be built on “disturbed land,” such as denuded former farms or on the land along roads, canals and power lines. Such places already have been damaged to the point where protected species, such as the desert tortoise, have been driven out, the report says.

The money quote in the piece:

“From a scientific standpoint, preserving the desert ecosystems is a no-brainer,” said Wayne D. Spencer, a conservation biologist with Conservation Biology Institute in San Diego and the panel leader. “There is a disconnect, a mismatch between what is going on now and what we are recommending.”

And the comic relief:

The BrightSource project in Ivanpah Valley would encompass part of an alluvial fan on the east side of the Clark Mountains, near Primm, Nev. [Keely] Wachs, the BrightSource spokesman, said the development is configured so that it wouldn’t interfere with natural water flows in the alluvial fan areas.

Someone should take Wachs aside and explain to him how alluvial fans form: the entire fan is the flow area.

You can read Danelski’s piece here. The independent scientists’ report to the DRECP is embedded below.

DRECP ISA Report Public Draft August 06 2010

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