ReWire reported earlier this month that early September was tough on birds near the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Between September 3 and 19, we reported, 20 birds had been found dead at the plant, 13 of them showing signs of burn injuries possibly related to the plant's concentrated solar "flux."
Well, September's full data set is in, and it's not particularly good news. According to compliance documents the plant's owners filed with the California Energy Commission a total of thirty dead birds were found at the Ivanpah plant in September, with 14 reported as bearing signs of burn injuries.
The plant, which owners BrightSource, NRG Energy, and Google are building in the Ivanpah Valley near the Mojave National Preserve, is readying to go online later this year.
According to the compliance report, Ivanpah's owners conducted several surveys during September to look for injured birds both during periods when the projects tens of thousands of mirrored heliostats were focused on the boilers atop the power towers to create solar flux, as well as some surveys around units not in flux.
Those surveys were limited to the area between the power towers and the innermost "ring road," an area described by BrightSource as extending in a circle about 850 feet from each power tower. That means the biologists surveyed about 156 acres of the project, less than five percent of the project's footprint, excluding almost all of the heliostat area. If birds injured by solar flux didn't plummet almost directly to the ground after being injured, they might well have escaped detection by these surveys. Though birds can't fly well with singed feathers, that doesn't rule out gliding for a significant distance.
A federal agency estimates that more than 2,000 desert tortoises may currently occupy the sites of a pair of large planned desert solar projects that would straddle the California/Nevada state line, but says developing the projects won't harm the species.
That's according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Biological Opinion, or BiOp, on the proposed Stateline and Silver State South projects, which First Solar wants to build in the Ivanpah Valley near Primm, Nevada.
USFWS estimates that the two projects combined will displace or kill as many as 2,115 desert tortoises, the vast majority of them being small tortoises and eggs that the agency admits may well be destroyed without being detected.
California's three largest utilities must obtain a significant amount of electrical power storage capacity by 2020, and that capacity must be online by 2024. That's according to the state agency that regulates utilities.
The California Public Utilities Commission ruled Thursday that Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric most procure 1,325 megawatts of electrical power storage capacity within the next decade.
The ability to store electrical power is a longtime goal of both grid operators and renewable energy advocates, as storage capacity would make the grid both more resistant to outages and more capable of taking advantage of intermittent renewable energy sources.
A state administrative agency has rejected a bid by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) to exempt discarded solar cells from some hazardous waste regulations.
Earlier this month, the state's Office of Administrative Law (OAL), which oversees administrative rulemaking, said that it could not approve DTSC's proposal to treat used solar panels as so-called "universal wastes," a hazardous waste category that includes a number of common products such as batteries and household pesticides.
The OAL said that DTSC's proposal would conflict with federal and state hazardous waste handling regulations, in part because of the diverse kinds of solar cells the proposed regulation would cover.
As the federal government shutdown drags on through its third week, scheduled hearings by a state agency on a massive solar project in the California desert may lack input and guidance from a number of federal agencies charged with ensuring the project doesn't pose a danger to wildlife or public safety.
The California Energy Commission has scheduled three days of evidentiary hearings on the Palen Solar Electric Generating System for late October, and even if the shutdown ends before the hearings federal agency staff will be hard pressed to participate, as they scramble to catch up on a nearly month-long backlog. If the government's shut down, those agency people have been expressly forbidden to attend.
The hearings are open to the public, and are intended to provide interested people with a venue for airing their concerns and comments about the 500-megawatt solar project, which would include very bright solar power boilers atop 750-foot towers next to Interstate 10 in Riverside County's desert. But the federal shutdown has already adversely affected the public's ability to comment on the project, even if those members of the public aren't furloughed feds.
A state agency has evaluated the likely effects of a proposed large solar project in eastern Riverside County, and the news isn't good for those interested in the California desert's human history.
According to the staff of the California Energy Commission, which released its staff assessment of the Blythe Solar Power Project (BSSP) Monday, the 4,138-acre, 485-megawatt solar project just west of Blythe would damage or destroy more than 100 important archaeological resources dating from anywhere between the early 20th century and World War II era to prehistoric times. At least seven distinct groups of Native people have used the site in recent centuries.
According to the CEC's staff, "approximately 142 known archaeological resources eligible or assumed eligible for the California Register of Historical Resources" would be impacted by the project.