News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Salazar's Legacy For California: 72 Square Miles of Renewables on Public Land

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Los Angeles | Photo: U.S> Army Corps o Engineers/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Outgoing Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar, who announced this week he'll be stepping down in March, leaves a legacy of massive change on California's public lands. During his tenure since 2009, Secretary Salazar approved renewable energy facilities on more than 46,000 acres of BLM lands in California. That's in excess of 72 square miles, about the size of the city of Victorville.

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Of the projects involving California BLM land approved during Salazar's tenure, only one -- the Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Facility -- is currently completed. That project, which occupies more than 10,000 acres of BLM lands in Imperial County, started delivering power to San Diego Gas & Electric in December.

Of the remaining California projects approved under Salazar, five are now under construction. Three -- the Ivanpah, Genesis, and Desert Sunlight projects -- occupy BLM lands directly, adding up to a total of 12,277 acres -- slightly less than 20 square miles. Two others -- the Abengoa Mojave plant west of Barstow and and Centinela Solar in IMperial County -- don't occupy BLM land, but the transmission and other services required to make those plants operate do, which required that the Interior Department sign off on those plants.

All told, renewable energy projects approved for California BLM lands during Salazar's term at Interior amount to just under 4,600 megawatts of generating capacity. (That's not including either the Imperial Solar Two or Lucerne Valley Solar projects, both of which were approved and then canceled by their promoters.)

A number of proposed projects on BLM lands in California, such as BrightSource Energy's Palen Solar project and NextEra's McCoy project have not yet been approved by Interior, and are not included in these totals. Also not included: rights of way for new transmission lines.

Here's a table of renewable energy projects approved by the Interior Department in California since Salazar took office. (Data here has been adapted from information provided by the BLM.)

Project Name

Capacity (MW) BLM Acreage Status Operational

Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Facility
[Ocotillo Express LLC (Pattern Energy LP)]
(Imperial County)

315 10,151 In operation Dec. 2012

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS)
[BrightSource Energy]
(San Bernardino County)

370 3,472 Under
May 2013

Genesis Solar Energy Project
[Solar Millenium, LLC]
(Riverside County)

250 4,640 Under construction March 2014

Abengoa Mojave Solar
[Mojave Solar]
(Riverside County)

250 0
(connected action)

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm
[First Solar Development, Inc.] (Riverside County)

550 4,165 Under
Nov. 2014

Centinela Solar Energy Project
[Centinela Solar Energy, LLC]
(Imperial County)

275 0
(connected action)
Under construction 2014

C Solar South
[LightSource Renewables]
(Imperial County)

200 0
(connected action)
Authorized June 2013

C Solar West
[LightSource Renewables]
(Imperial County)

250 0
(connected action)
Authorized Jan. 2015

Rice Solar Energy
[Rice Solar Energy, LLC]
(Riverside County)

150 0
(connected action)
Authorized 2014

Campo Verde Solar Project
[Campo Verde Solar, LLC]
(Imperial County)

139 0
(connected action)
Authorized 2013

Tule Wind
[Iberdrola-Pacific Wind Development]
(San Diego County)

186 12,133
(connected action)
Authorized 2013

Calico Solar Energy Project
[acquired by K Road Power]
(San Bernardino County)

663.5 4,604

Authorized but pending new environmental review because of technology change

Nov. 2013

Blythe Solar Power Project
[Solar Millennium, LLC]
(Riverside County)

1,000 7,025 Authorized but pending new environmental review because of technology change Pending

Imperial Valley Solar Project
[Tessera Solar North America]
(Imperial County)

709 6,360 Authorization terminated at request of developer N/A

Lucerne Valley Solar Project
[Chevron Energy Solutions]
(San Bernardino County)

45 516 Terminated effective 12/31/2012 N/A

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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I wonder if Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is going to answer the letter (below) sent by to him by Whooping Crane Conservation Association (WCCA) . Or will the Dept. of Interior dodge this problem.That would not be a good idea because it is going to come out anyway. Maybe instead of sneaking out of his office he will let the Dept. of Interior rig the whooping crane count with new their spread out count that will include captive bred transplants. In the last year 30 whooping cranes were released along the coast about 60 miles from Texas.

There are just too many eyes on this highly endangered species. For those that do not know, over 200 hundred of whooping cranes have gone missing in recent years after their 2500 mile migration route was invaded by thousands of wind turbines. Prior to 2006 (for decades) their numbers increased at rate about 4.5% per year. But since 2006-2007 their population has been decreasing at a rate of about 10 percent per year. Last year the USFWS could only count 193 so their survey methodology was changed so that population numbers could then be estimated or exaggerated.

January 4, 2013
Ken Salazar,
Secretary U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Mr. Salazar: The annual winter census of endangered Whooping Cranes has been an event looked forward to by the conservation community since Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937. The aerial total population count, done for the past 61 years, was changed by USFWS in the winter of 2011-2012 to a survey method using hierarchical distance sampling. As stated by USFWS, the new sampling method is only 85% accurate.The Whooping Crane Conservation Association (WCCA) believes the total population count is much preferred to the current estimate that has little value. Estimates are not satisfactory when dealing with this bird which is considered a flagship among all endangered species. Only about 300 birds exist in this wild population and it is still possible to do a total population count. Potentially, a dozen or even thirty five birds could die or disappear and the sampling technique would not detect the change. The new counting system only indicates that some low number of cranes are still present. It does not tell us whether this endangered population has increased or decreased from the previous year. The refuge’s 2011-2012 estimate of 254 plus or minus 62 Whooping Cranes does not serve any management purposes, nor does it provide worthwhile public information. This degree of uncertainty for a critically endangered species is simply unacceptable.
The Whooping Crane is an internationally endangered species, and as such the concerns of the international community should be considered. Because of this high level of interest, and the endangered status of the species, accurate total population counts should be continued annually.
The WCCA sees the total count census as the most practical, economical and having the most scientific value. Three aerial counts between December 1 and 20 would provide a good count of the total number of birds arriving in the winter population. Flights every two weeks, after the December 20 count, until the cranes return north, would provide estimates of population losses during the winter. We note that as of December 27, 2012, the Aransas Refuge new website still does not report any crane numbers from approximately seven flights conducted this fall. We urge you to resume regular aerial total population counts as soon as possible. The WCCA looks forward to continuing its support of the international Whooping Crane conservation efforts, as we have done for the past fifty years.
Lorne Scott,
Whooping Crane Conservation Association
cc: Dan Ashe, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Hon. Peter Kent, Wendy Brown, Dr. Grant Harris, Aaron Archibecque, Sonny Perez, Dr. Wade Harrell, LeeAnn Linam, Dr. Rich Beilfuss, Dr. George Archibald, Joseph Duff, Dr. Mark Bidwell, Dr. Sandy Black, Ron Outen, Marty Folk, Alan Strand, Dr. Felipe Chavez-Ramirez, Dr. John French,Larry Schweiger, Wade Luzny


It's kinda hard to "deliver power to San Diego Gas & Electric" when there has been virtually NO WIND since December in Ocotillo...