The discovery last week of a dead hawk in the hills between the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility and the Sunrise Powerlink has residents of the nearby town of Ocotillo concerned about how their local raptors are faring with more than 100 new wind turbines in their town.
The dead bird, which ReWire's sources have preliminarily identified as a ferruginous hawk, was found by an Ocotillo resident over the weekend in a small wash off Shell Canyon Road north of the Imperial County hamlet, less than half a mile from the northern tier of the wind project's 440-foot turbines.
Though the photographs ReWire has obtained do not show conclusive photographic evidence of a cause of death. But finding an individual of North America's largest hawk species dead of unexplained causes more than a half mile from a wind turbine raises questions how wind energy facility operators monitor wildlife mortalities.
The Bureau of Land Management is now looking for public comment on a proposed 4,397-acre solar facility between the Mojave National Preserve and the Soda Mountains Wilderness Study Area, in an area that one environmental group has defined as "core" undeveloped Mojave Desert habitat.
Soda Mountain Solar wants to build 358 megawatts' worth of photovoltaic panel arrays flanking a six-mile stretch of Interstate 15 in the Mojave Desert southwest of Baker, adjacent to some of the best desert bighorn sheep habitat in the Mojave National Preserve, on undeveloped land that is home to the federally Threatened desert tortoise and the Mojave fringe-toed lizard, along with burrowing owls and desert kit foxes.
Soda Mountain Solar, a subsidiary of the construction firm Bechtel, plans to place about 1.5 million solar panels on the site. The company has not announced a power purchase agreement with any of the utilities the project would be intended to serve.
A Southern California judge has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service paid enough attention to the welfare of Endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep when it assessed the environmental effects of an Imperial County wind facility near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
In a November 20 decision, U.S. Superior Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel dismissed a lawsuit by three plaintiffs against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ocotillo Express Wind project, in which the plaintiffs -- Protect Our Communities Foundation; Backcountry Against Dumps; and Boulevard resident Donna Tisdale -- claimed that USFWS's Biological Opinion (BiOp) on the Ocotillo Express project didn't use the best available science on Peninsular bighorn sheep, and failed to recognize the importance of low-elevation habitat to the subspecies.
The plaintiffs had sought to force USFWS to reexamine the threat to bighorn from Pattern Energy's 315-megawatt turbine array in southwestern Imperial County. In its BiOp for the project, USFWS had said that building and operating Ocotillo could harm up to five adult ewes and their lambs without posing a threat to the survival of the species.
The stereotype of affluent California rooftop solar owners persists enough that it's being used effectively in anti-solar campaigns. And there certainly are a lot of wealthy Californian individuals and businesses taking advantage of solar. But though there's certainly room for improvement in the way we make rooftop solar's benefits available to people without a lot of cash to throw around, the field isn't just limited to the rich -- even in stylish Los Angeles.
That's according to "Solar in the Spotlight: Stories of Angelenos Investing in a Clean Energy Future" -- a report released today by Environment California offering 23 human-interest-style case studies of solar installations throughout Los Angeles and environs. The stories range from modest homes, to local businesses and community churches, to the titans of L.A.'s flagship industry.
And each case profiled shows that there's good reason to go solar in Los Angeles.
A subsidiary of the nation's largest electrical power company was sentenced Friday over deaths of protected birds, including golden eagles, at two of its wind facilities in Wyoming, the Justice Department has announced. Duke Energy Renewables, a division of the North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corporation, must pay fines and penalties and engage in community service for a total cost of $1 million as punishment for the deaths of 14 golden eagles and more than 140 other protected birds at its wind facilities.
The bird deaths took place between 2009 and 2013 at Duke's Top of the World and Campbell Hill wind facilities in Converse County, Wyoming. The sentence marks the first successful prosecution of a wind energy company for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
The company pled guilty to charges of violating the MBTA as part of a settlement agreement with the Justice Department. The feds had charged that Duke didn't make reasonable efforts to build its facilities in ways that would minimize the risk to wildlife.
Okay, this is cool: a Seattle-based startup is working to develop a tiny hydroelectric generator suitable for powering low-wattage devices like phones or small LED lights. The "Hydrobee" is a self-contained hydroelectric plant the size of a soda can: when flowing water spins its small blades, the generator feeds a trickle of electrical power into a six-pack of AA nickel metal hydride batteries, charging them up.
The user could then tap that stored power by means of a USB 2.0 connection. It wouldn't be enough power to run your industrial society on, but it might be just right for powering a headlamp or a small flashlight -- and for the two billion or so people in the world without access to grid power, points out Hydrobee founder Burt Hamner, that small flashlight could displace smoky, unhealthy, dangerous, and expensive kerosene lanterns.
The company's Kickstarter mentions that the Hydrobee can be used either by placing it in a stream or towing it behind a boat, or by running a flow through the device from a faucet. That last idea may seem inefficient to water-conserving Californians, but there's nothing saying you couldn't attach the thing to a waterline long-term, charging the batteries as you do the dishes or run your washing machine.