The desert tortoise is this week’s poster critter as the California Energy Commission holds evidentiary hearings on the proposed Bright Source Energy Ivanpah Solar Power Complex, which will occupy 6.2 square miles of public land near I-15 and the California-Nevada border. At issue is the desert tortoise, 25 of whom live in Ivanpah Valley. Project backers have set aside three times as much land in the valley as the project will displace for a new home to the tortoises, but environmentalists say the tortoises may not be able to survive such a move.
The Energy Commission hearings will attempt to balance protection of an endangered species with the state mandate to increase dramatically California’s renewable energy. As was seen, however, in the recent Maryland court decision effectively stopping a West Virginia wind project due to an endangered bat, this won’t be easy. Its difficult to say how this one will turn out, particularly in light of the Maryland bat case, but it definitely will not be the last project to face this dilemma.