Panel Discards Scientists' Recommendations on Wildlife Kills at Solar Plant

Solar flux field surrounds a power tower at Ivanpah | Photo: Craig Dietrich/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A task force charged with addressing the burgeoning issue of bird and bat deaths at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) has dismissed many of the recommendations in a report on the topic issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's forensics lab, according to documents released by the California Energy Commission.

That report by USFWS's National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, which ReWire reported on in April, suggested that actual levels of wildlife mortality and injuries at ISEGS are being obscured by inadequate surveys for injured and dead animals, and proposed several measures by which those surveys could be made more scientifically rigorous.

But according to minutes of a May 20 meeting of the ISEGS Avian & Bat Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), an interagency body convened to assess the wildlife mortality issue at the plant, members dismissed a number of apparently common-sense steps to increase the validity of carcass surveys -- and one likely method to sharply reduce injuries to birds during migration season.

Fed Agency OKs Controversial Power Storage Project Near Joshua Tree NP

The Eagle Mountain mine, site of a proposed hydroelectric power storage project | Photo: Chris Clarke | KCETLink

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.

Hundreds More Electric Car Charging Stations Coming to California

More of these coming to California | Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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."

Conservationists Sue Feds Over Wind Turbine Eagle Rule

Conservationists sue to bar 30-year permits to kill eagles | Photo: Macomb Paynes/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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."

California Energy, Climate Labs Get Research Grants From Feds

UC Berkeley and three other California research institutions are awarded grants from the Department of Energy | Photo: John Morgan/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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.

Meet California's New Solar Capital: Buffalo, New York

Downtown Buffalo | Photo: Joseph A./Flickr/Creative Commons License

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.

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