The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) late last week released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Stateline Solar Farm, a proposed 2,143 acre, 300-megawatt photovoltaic facility in California's Ivanpah Valley, adjacent to the BrightSource Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. The project, proposed by First Solar, would threaten more than two-thirds of the known California locations of the "critically imperiled" Mojave milkweed, and further degrade the valley's once-top-tier tortoise habitat, according to the document.
The Mojave milkweed is just one of 22 special-status plant species that may be affected by the project, along with a number of animal species of concern. Chief among those animals is the federally threatened desert tortoise, of which about 40 individual adults are expected to inhabit the footprint in the proposal's preferred alternative. (Whether those estimates are sound remains to be seen: Stateline's neighbor BrightSource famously found hundreds more tortoises on their project site than were expected.
Other animal species of concern either known to exist or expected on the project site include golden eagles and burrowing owls, American badgers, and pallid and Townsend's big-eared bats.
First Solar says on its Stateline project page that it expects to begin construction in April. Given that the comment period on the Draft EIS closes in February and that a final EIS must then be written and distributed and a Record of Decision issued, that April deadline will very likely be moved significantly. At its projected completion in 2016, Stateline will sell its power to Southern California Edison under a power purchase agreement signed in 2009.
First Solar, ReWire readers may recall, is the company whose executive Jack Curtis told an Australian trade website that the era of projects like Stateline may well be over. First Solar is also developing 450 megawatts worth of capacity on the Nevada side of the Ivanpah Valley at its Silver State facilities.
The BLM will accept public comments on the Draft EIS until February 23, 2013.