Sunday, July 03, 2011

BLM closes federal lands to mining, in favor of industrial-scale solar projects

BLM, in order to evaluate federal lands as to their "environmental and resource suitability for utility-scale solar energy development," has issued "a Notice of Segregation of Public Lands for approximately 677,000 acres in six Western states. With this notice, 24 tracts of BLM-administered land located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah will be temporarily segregated from the location of mining claims or other land appropriations for a two-year period."

"To allow for continued analysis of these lands, the BLM published a notice in the Federal Register proposing a five-year withdrawal on April 21, 2011." [right, BLM solar study areas in western Arizona. Credit, BLM]

A concern raised earlier is that speculators were filing mining claims in areas of high potential for large industrial solar energy operations, in expectations of being able to sell the claims to solar companies for a big profit.


  1. I can't wait for the Draft EISs to be published for these mega solar projects. I think that these projects will turn out to be impossible to build due to water use issues and habitat destruction issues. It will make the impacts from breccia pipe mining look like childs play.

    There is always another conservation group that believes that some turtle, mouse, rat, snake, bird, or plant, etc... will be irrepairable harmed as a result of clearing the desert of all vegetation to site the solar collectors...and they are probable right too.

    Siting industrial size (1000 Mwatt plus) Solar power plants will be a monumental task.

  2. Anonymous8:55 PM

    I hope you're correct. I don't have as much faith in the environmental community as you do, however. My observation is that many so-called environmental groups are not really committed to preserving the environment - they just use that as an excuse to stop mining, which they absolutely hate (even though they all use mined products daily). They pick and choose what kind of environmental and habitat damage is acceptable to them.

    Many have no problem with disturbing the land if doing so is for "good" causes (in their opinion) such as windmills and solar collectors, both of which produce "clean" energy. It's common knowledge that huge numbers of raptors and other birds are killed by flying into windmills. Are enviro groups sufficiently concerned about that to try to stop construction of other wind farms? No, in their minds windmills are good - they produce clean energy and more of them need to be built.

    Clearing a desert valley to construct solar collectors won't bother many of them either. Remember, solar is good clean and renewable energy. The only thing that might cause them to be a bit more cautious in the future is what has been learned about desert tortoises across the river in Nevada. (I'm referring to the Ivanpah Solar Energy Project south of Las Vegas. Although this project is in Nevada, it is intended to power CALIFORNIA'S clean energy economy. California's portion of the Mojave Desert is too sensitive to use, so they go into adjacent Nevada and Arizona to do their dirty work.) Enviro groups had written off the tortoise in that area to allow clearing the desert for construction of a large array of solar panels. Shortly after clearing started, construction workers began digging up many many more tortoises than had been estimated to be there. Past regulations to preserve the desert tortoise were made with inadequate knowledge of how many of them lived underground. This "endangered" species is a lot more abundant than we were told. Sound familiar?

    Will this knowledge cause the environmental community to re-assess how "endangered" the desert tortoise really is? Will it stop construction of similar facilities in comparable areas of the Southwest, including Arizona, to preserve desert tortoises and habitat? I'm betting that we'll see a huge amount of hypocrisy involving desert clearing and tortoise habitat for construction of "good" energy projects. It will become obvious what many of these groups are really about.