Ivanpah Valley

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Boom Times for Field Biologists

Big wind and solar buildouts spur a “bio-boom” in the California desert

Field biologists like Mike Sally live a windblown, nomadic lifestyle, surveying sites for renewable energy projects. (Photo: Sarah McBride)

By Sarah McBride

I’ve reported on bubbles in plenty of stocks and commodities, but my springtime visit to the Ivanpah Valley was the first I’d heard anyone talk about a bubble in field biologists. The guy who used those words, Alex Mach, is a field biologist himself — and he was only half kidding.

Mach is one of dozens of field biologists who are out in the desert working to protect threatened animals and plants from solar and wind development projects. They’ve tapped into the rich vein of desert tortoises, whose habitats coincide with many of the areas scientists say are best positioned for solar plants — including Mach’s worksite at the time, BrightSource Energy’s solar plant in Ivanpah Valley, near the California-Nevada border. Continue reading