Solar Plant Scuttled to Protect Mojave

Oakland company still hoping to build solar plants

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    NEWSLETTERS

    1suisse / Flickr
    The Mojave desert has become a battleground between the preservationist and renewable energy strains of the environmental movement.

    Oakland-based BrightSource canceled plans to build reflective solar generators in the Mojave Desert after a campaign by Senator Dianne Feinstein and the The Wildlands Conservancy to protect local wildlife from development.

    Feinstein wants to expand the boundaries of the national monument protection to an area that would include the Joshua Tree National Monument and the Mojave National Preserve, as well as the BrightSource site, near Broadwell Dry Lake.

    BrightSource still plans to build generators near Ivanpah, which is also sensitive habitat but which has also already been encroached upon by development.

    The Ivanpah location also has the benefit of being closer to a power transmission hub.

    The planned installation would generate over 400 megawatts, enough to power significantly more than 100,000 homes.

    Reflective solar technology doesn't use solar panels directly, but mirrors focused on a boiler which then powers a turbine. San Francisco engineering firm Bechtel plans to build the generators in exchange for an equity stake in BrightSource.

    So at least it's less likely to get dismantled by thieves and sold on the black market, a trend that's recently hit Napa and other Bay Area counties in the last year.

    Photo by Flickr user 1suisse.

    Jackson West figures Bechtel's stake in the contract will at least get BrightSource a meeting with politicians and regulators.