Oakland’s BrightSource Energy and Environmentalists throw down over a threatened tortoise
What some have billed as the world’s largest solar project in the Mojave came under fire again today. This time a baby desert tortoise led the charge with a cohort of environmentalists. While the tortoise provided a slow-motion picket around downtown Oakland, protestors lined up in front of BrightSource Energy’s corporate headquarters, determined to preserve the Mojave desert and keep solar projects local.
A baby desert tortoise stakes out a position outside BrightSource Energy headquarters in Oakland. (Photo: Chris Penalosa)
At risk of habitat loss from the project, the tortoise is becoming the iconic image for preservation of the Mojave. The Bureau of Land Management put the brakes on two-thirds of the Ivanpah solar farm when field biologists found more tortoises than initially expected. Tortoises found on site are being relocated and fenced off, preventing their gradual return. Continue reading
It had been a good month for BrightSource Energy, the Oakland-based company that’s building the massive Ivanpah solar farm in the Mojave Desert.
Google announced it would invest $168 million in the project. The Department of Energy announced $1.6 billion loan guarantee. And on Friday, the company announced it plans to go public with a $250 million initial public offering. But a recurring issue has popped up: the desert tortoise.
A Mojave desert tortoise. (Image: USGS)
“It’s an endangered species. No project that is sited out there in within their habitat can negatively impact the population,” says Erin Curtis, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management. As anyone following the battles over solar farms knows, prime desert tortoise habitat also happens to be prime solar territory and has been targeted by a number of proposed solar farms.
BrightSource Energy agreed to mitigate the impacts their solar farm would have on the tortoises by capturing and relocating them to new habitat. Fences are being constructed to prevent the tortoises from returning. Continue reading