Invanpah (Brightsource / First Solar)

DFN: When I hear Ivanpah I think of Brightsource’s Utility Scale Solar Plant Development, its one of the projects on the Federal Government’s fast track. Article talks about a First Solar development, not about Brightsource’s.

DESERT: BLM gets an earful about the Ivanpah Valley
11:15 PM PDT on Thursday, March 31, 2011
The Press-Enterprise

No one disputes that the Ivanpah Valley is rich with resources.

For solar energy developers, the roughly 500-square-mile expanse has some of the most ample sunshine in the world and can help provide clean energy for a nation trying to ease its dependence on fossil fuels.


Desert high-speed train draws detractors

Environmentalists see the valley as an important and sensitive ecosystem, home to protected desert tortoises, a species that already has lost most of its habitat.

Others see the area, bisected by Interstate 15 near Primm, Nev., as a logical pathway for high-speed trains and a new natural gas pipeline.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials hosted a meeting Thursday in Primm to hear concerns and comments from some of those competing interests. About 40 people attended the meeting, including government officials.

"When you look at this valley, what strikes you is the cumulative impacts," said Sid Silliman of the Desert Tortoise Council, a group that works to protect the habitat of the iconic species, which is threatened with extinction. "What we see is destruction and fragmentation of tortoise habitat."

Solar development in the Ivanpah Valley means less habitat loss elsewhere, because new transmission lines don’t have to be built, said Laura Abram, a spokeswoman for First Solar, which plans to build two photovoltaic projects in the valley.

Power lines that can deliver clean energy to Los Angeles already cross the valley, she said.

The valley has an important role in clean energy, Abram told the audience.

"The bigger picture is climate change and the Middle East and the unrest there," she said.

Several environmentalists emphasized local consequences.

Laura Crane of the Nature Conservancy said the valley is rich with diverse plant and animal life, in addition to a healthy population of tortoises. Development would use scarce groundwater, drawing down water tables and harming wildlife, she said.

David Lamfrom of the National Parks Conservation Association said Ivanpah development would hurt the Mojave National Preserve, which encompasses the southwest corner of the valley.

Among the consequences, he said, would be loss of scenic views, diversion of water from the preserve, and obstruction of a wildlife corridor that allows wildlife to move between the preserve and other protected areas.

In addition, he said the valley should be preserved as a sacred place for Native American people.

Brian Brown has a farm north of the valley.

"The desert is going to die of a thousand cuts," he said. "I fear I will be driving from industrial park to industrial park with just patches of desert in between."

Environmentalists agreed that they would work together to compile a report chronicling the valley’s natural resources.

BLM officials said they would take such a report into consideration.

Abram of First Solar said her company wants to collaborate with environmentalists to minimize harm to wildlife.

The company, for example, changed the footprint of 2,600-arce project planned for the valley to avoid land with higher tortoise counts.

Rusty Lee, the BLM’s Needles field station manager, said he would like see environmentalists and developers work together.

"Everything is moving so fast, we are talking past each other," he said.

Reach David Danelski at 951-368-9410 or


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