Feinstein Argues Against Mojave Desert Solar Power Plans

  • Published on March 20th, 2009

While solar energy is often touted as a way to avoid fossil fuels, California Senator Dianne Feinstein believes some public lands solar projects in the Mojave Desert need to be reexamined for their potential environmental impact.


Feinstein wrote to the Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar to request that 12 proposed solar plans for the desert lands be scrapped, citing potential habitat destruction. The complaint applies to a small fraction of the 165 pending wind and solar energy leases on 600,000 acres of former railroad land.

Much of the land was donated by conservation group Wildlands Conservancy, and while the Bureau of land management maintains that the only stipulation of the donation was that no mining would be allowed on the land, Feinstein says that developing the land goes against the land’s intended purpose and puts wildlife in harm’s way.

Feinstein is particularly concerned about “pristine habitats” between Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. The solar projects could potentially split up the habitats.

“Unfortunately, many of the sites now being considered for leases are completely inappropriate and will lead to the wholesale destruction of some of the most pristine areas in the desert,” Feinstein wrote in the letter.

She later clarifies that she is not opposed to solar and wind development in general, but does not believe these particular areas need to be put at risk in order to develop alternative energy.

Via Press Enterprise

Photo Credit: gamillos on Flickr under Creative Commons license.
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About the Author

is primarily concerned with animal welfare, wildlife conservation, and environmental justice. As a freelance writer in San Francisco, he leads a deliberately simplistic and thrifty lifestyle, yet still can’t help gawking at the newest green gadgets and zero-emission concept cars.


  • Mojave Desert in particular stores as much carbon as some temperate forests. Scraping the ground cover, including microbiotic crusts, would remove this function of the desert as a carbon sink, offsetting to some (currently unknown) extent the geenhouse gas reductions provided by the solar power project.

    Concentrating solar power plants also use vast quantities of water when they are “wet-cooled,” somewhere in the range of two million or more gallons per megawatt per year. One 280-megawatt plant proposed in Arizona is projected to use 600 to 700 million gallons (1900 acre-feet) each year. Where will that water come from?

    Many of the proposed concentrating solar power plants would be sited far from existing transmission, adding greatly to the cost and environmental impact of this form of solar power when new transmission lines are factored in.

    All of these impacts, and more, should be thoroughly considered before pushing ahead with any solar project. Yet the Governor and the concentrating solar industry have been pushing to relax environmental review, because these projects are viewed as de facto green.

  • I could not believe that there is so much ignorance in this world. Someonne used the words "inhabitable desert". I have a place in the high desert and am amazed at the life I encounter every weekend. What beauty you find away from all the concrete. There are lots of alternatives to using these areas and destoying these protected lands.

  • I feel this claim is ridiculous considering our alternatives, can we please allow some sort of progress towards a greener planet and energy independence? certainly this is preferable to foreign wars, oil spills and the greenhouse effect? I say hell yes for solar alternatives in the barely inhabitable desert, sacrifices must be made in big ways and I believe over time we can get better at even this macro level, for now we must press forward gung ho into encouraging/enabling industry giants to convert to 100% renewables

  • Dear Alex, would a petition to Feinstein encouraging Mojave Desert Solar Power plans be useful? Could you set up a petition? (like the one at http://www.nirs.org/petition2) which argues against the old nuclear reactors, dangerous, inefficient, and requiring subsidies) So far that petition has 10,534 signatures.

    Thanks, EAV

  • Your are wrong about the abundance of renewable energy. Aproximately 12,000 TW of energy (6000 times what man uses) is dissipated in the troposphere each day in the form of updrafts (aka vertical winds). The active form is called CAPE–Convective Available Potential Energy (see http://www.tornadochaser.net/capeclass/)

    A device (Atmospheric Vortex Engine) for harvesting this as electricity is described at http://vortexengine.ca Note: this is REAL Stored in the air resulting from the sun's heating, it is NOT fictitious Zero-Point energy

  • Seems to me there is plenty of desolate former army base land – that has probably already been poisoned – that would be available…Not a fan of DiFi generally – but I think she's right on this.

  • She should talk to Barbara Boxer,,California Senator Dianne Feinstein, has just decovered Mojave, there

    is something going on OTHER THAN BIRDS???



    Harold P Boushell

  • Mrs. Feinstien is also not on board with the Pickens Plan, or any of its proposals for Green Clean and Safe Energy!

    Wind Turbines hold great promise. If she is really worried about the Birds, then we must Ground all Air Flights and Traffic too, would we not? Afterall planes are also a threat to birds.

    My guess is she is firmly in the pocket of Oil/Gas/mining/logging companies…we have an election coming up for these people in 2010, lets get rid of the whole lot of them and put in brand new untainted representatives. We must take away this Life-long career of Politicians….it is an elected position, and we are going to have to start looking to the candidate that does not have all the campaign money and is not tainted by all these corporations that buy our Representatives.

    No more life long appointments sucking the teet and trolling at our Tax coffers. The first 3 to go should be Pelosi, Reid, Dood, then Franks, anyways we know what to do.

  • Headline grabbed my attention, but I agree generally with Feinstein on this one. Why use pristine wildlands for Solar projects if you can avoid it?

    I've also heard arguments stating that energy interests are using the green energy drive to make inroads into areas they would never be allowed in otherwise, so caution seems prudent.

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