A federal agency has given the go-ahead to a power storage project adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park that opponents say could seriously harm both the park's wildlife and local groundwater.
The Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Project, proposed for the old Kaiser Eagle Mountain mine in Riverside County's Chuckwalla Valley would store and release surplus electrical power by pumping water between two reservoirs. During the day when local solar and wind energy plants produce power, the water would be pumped uphill, then allowed to run downhill through turbines to recoup some of that energy when renewable energy sources aren't producing power.
But the plan calls for 21,000 acre-feet of water in those reservoirs, and project proponent Eagle Crest Energy plans to get that water -- and the 100,000 acre-feet needed to replace evaporated water over the project's 50-year lifespan -- from the local aquifer. That has locals worried about water availability and quality, and the presence of huge reservoirs in the middle of the desert poses problems for Joshua Tree's beleaguered wildlife.
The California Energy Commission will be plowing millions of dollars into building almost 500 more electric car charging stations throughout the state, along with an assortment of other alternative energy programs, the agency announced Thursday.
On Wednesday, the CEC approved $5 million in 15 grants through the agency's program to install 475 electric vehicle chargers in communities throughout the state.
"The Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program continues to support California's goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025," said Commissioner Janea A. Scott. "These community investments assist in building the network of charging stations needed, and help accelerate growth in the electric vehicle market."
A group of individual conservationists and a national bird protection organization have sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency's decision to extend the length of permits issued to the wind power industry to kill bald and golden eagles.
The suit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, charges that USFWS's extension of take permits for the two species from five years to 30 years -- which we've reported on extensively at ReWire -- is a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), and other federal laws.
"Eagles are among our nation's most iconic and cherished birds," said Dr. Michael Hutchins of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), one of the plaintiffs. "They do not have to be sacrificed for the next 30 years for the sake of unconstrained wind energy."
Four leading California research laboratories working in the fields of energy and climate change were among the grant recipients from the Department of Energy's Energy Frontier Research Centers program, the DOE announced Wednesday.
"Today, we are mobilizing some of our most talented scientists to join forces and pursue the discoveries and breakthroughs that will lay the foundation for our nation's energy future," said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz in announcing the awards. "The funding we're announcing today will help fuel scientific and technological innovation."
The grants, totaling $100 million, are the second round of funding from the DOE for its Energy Frontier Research Centers, and are intended to promote basic scientific research into renewable energy-related materials and technology issues.
SolarCity, the Menlo Park-based solar panel leasing company best known as the company Elon Musk owns that isn't SpaceX or Tesla Motors, announced Tuesday that it's buying Fremont-based solar panel manufacturer Silevo, and that the acquisition will lead to building one of the world's largest solar panel factories in Buffalo, New York.
In a blog post published Tuesday, Musk and SolarCity's cofounders Peter and Lyndon Rive said that the company is in negotiations with the state of New York to build a solar panel manufacturing center large enough to build more than a gigawatt's worth of solar panels every year.
The panels built at the facility would use Silevo's proprietary Triex photovoltaic technology, which Musk and the Rives brothers say offers high energy output at low cost. And putting the facility in snowy, economically depressed Buffalo is a stroke of genius.
Recorded bird deaths at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System ebbed only slightly in May after their peak in April, and more than half the bird carcasses reported to the state energy agency showed signs of injury from the plant's concentrated solar energy.
According to the Monthly Compliance Report for May filed with the California Energy Commission (CEC), a total of 80 birds were confirmed killed at the San Bernardino County solar plant in May. 44 of the birds showed clear signs of scorching, singeing, or melting of feathers consistent with exposure to extreme temperatures, as would happen if the birds flew through the plant's solar flux fields.
Solar flux burns weren't just recorded on the birds' sensitive feathers. Several of the carcasses were described as having had burns to the skin beneath the feathers. Two birds, both barn swallows, were described as showing injuries to their eyes consistent with solar flux injuries, and one of the two swallows had burns on his cloacal protuberance -- an organ roughly equivalent to the mammalian scrotum.