BrightSource Scales Back Solar Plant; Desert Tortoise Wins!

Keep on truckin’ desert tortoise

The desert tortoise has won! Or something like that.

BrightSource Energy has proposed an alternative design for the Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System in the Mojave Desert that would reduce the project’s footprint and megawattage but have less impact on about 25 threatened tortoises.

We wrote about the issue last month.

The BrightSource mitigation proposal was filed yesterday with the California Energy Commission and Bureau of Land Management, according to the company.

The project, which creates energy by using 400,000 mirrors to reflect sunlight onto seven 459-foot metal towers, had been sited on 6 square miles in the California Mojave Desert, just south of Las Vegas.

The proposed changes would:

  • reduce the project’s overall size from 440 to 392 megawatts.
  • reduce the footprint of the overall project by 12 percent
  • reduce desert tortoise relocations by 15 percent.
  • avoid areas with rare plant density and seek to mimimize impact on the land.

The area is home to several species of flora and fauna, including the tortoise, and The Sierra Club wanted BrightSource to find another site or pay to relocate the tortoises.

But in a release yesterday, BrightSource Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety Steve DeYoung said the company wanted to minimize its impact:

With this proposed alternative design, we are further avoiding the habitat of rare plants and other species, and setting another great precedent for projects that follow.

Environmental groups were not as impressed with the new plan as the company probably hoped.

Joshua Basofin, the California representative for Defenders of Wildlife told Green, Inc.’s, Todd Woody

This reconfiguration is pretty minimal from what we’ve seen, and it hasn’t really addressed the core issues on the impact on desert tortoise and rare plants.

The issue has become a major front in the “green on green” battle between green energy companies and environmental and wildlife advocates.

BrightSource, which has backing from Google, VantagePoint Venture Partners and BP, among others, needs to begin the project by the end of the year or it won’t qualify for its Energy Department loan guarantee.

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