Framework

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BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar power plant construction site is bathed in the light from the rising sun as cranes loom over the floor of the Mojave Desert near the Nevada state line. Crews work to construct one of the giant "power towers."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Dennis Schramm, the former National Park Service superintendent at the Mojave National Preserve, pauses for a moment near the edge of the mineral springs at the Desert Studies Center in Zzyzx, Calif. Before his retirement, Schramm said, he was troubled with locating solar plants like BrightSource in or near national parks.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

A relocated desert tortoise takes a walk in the safety of its pen at the BrightSource Ivanpah Solar construction site. Biologists have been rounding up the endangered tortoises, placing them in pens until they can be relocated.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Work begins on the large heliostat construction at BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar power plant in the Mojave Desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Mirrors that will reflect the sun and generate power await installation at BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah 1 Solar Generation plant site in the Mojave Desert near the Nevada state line.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Workers drive the heliostat posts into the ground at BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah 1 solar power plant site in the Mojave Desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

A male American kestrel watches from his perch atop a Mojave yucca in the Ivanpah Valley, future site of BrightSource Energy's solar power plant site.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Workers are dwarfed by the the lower third of the power tower structure under construction at BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar power plant site.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

A brittle spine flower emerges through the crusty surface of the desert floor in the Ivanpah Valley, where the BrightSource Energy solar power plant is being built.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Wind blows a cloud of dust across the desert floor near the Desert Studies Center in Zzyzx, Calif. The pristine quality of the Mojave is being challenged by nearby solar projects.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

A ladybug explores a desert marigold on the outskirts of BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar power plant in the Mojave Desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

A side-blotched lizard stands in the safety of his terrain in the Ivanpah Valley, where the BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar power plant will operate.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Drivers on northbound Interstate 15 head towards Las Vegas beneath the glowing sunset near BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar power plant.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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Sacrificing the desert to save the Earth

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Sacrificing the desert to save the Earth

By Julie Cart

BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah solar power project will soon be a humming city with 24-hour lighting, a wastewater processing facility and a gas-fired power plant.

To make room, BrightSource has mowed down a swath of desert plants, displaced dozens of animal species and relocated scores of imperiled desert tortoises, a move that some experts say could kill up to a third of them.

Industrial-scale solar development is well underway in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. The federal government has furnished more public property to this cause than it has for oil and gas exploration over the last decade — 21 million acres, more than the area of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties put together.

“The scale of impacts that we are facing, collectively across the desert, is phenomenal,” said Dennis Schramm, former superintendent at neighboring Mojave National Preserve. “The reality of the Ivanpah project is that what it will look like on the ground is worse than any of the analyses predicted.”

In the fight against climate change, the Mojave Desert is about to take one for the team.

Read the full story

4 Comments

  1. February 7, 2012, 3:54 am

    Giving away citizen/gov't land so private companies can make millions and ruin the desert.
    Another brilliant idea from this corrupt administration.

    By: Dontlikekoolaid
  2. February 8, 2012, 7:26 pm

    All wrapped up in the old lie, we know and are doing what is best for the people because its for the public good. When will our citizens figure out the people they are talking care of and in whose best interest it is not the average US citizen but those who see themselves as the ruling class and their political allies.

    By: Dwight
  3. February 20, 2012, 6:29 am

    Right. The old "we're doing it for your own good" lie. Sad that so much of this happens due to waste. Instead of being more efficient and correcting our problems it seems governments and corporations just move on to the next piece of earth to ruin. Lovely.

    By: ameliamcgoldrick
  4. July 3, 2012, 4:23 am

    The only way to an energy secure future is through using solar technologies. There is nothing wrong with employing desert land to harness the solar resource. I understand the environmental implications, but the alternative is that the entire system dies.

    By: liammay

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