The New York Times has examined the progress of the Ivanpah solar project and has found that there is a lot of effort being made to protect the desert tortoise. The project is being built right on the habitat of the desert tortoise and no-one is allowed onto the site without the accompaniment of a biologist.
The way in which the project developers go about protecting the desert tortoise, an animal that is endangered, will serve as a critical test case for future projects. The Ivanpah solar project is the first major solar energy project to get underway in the United States in many years. It will be soon followed by a host of other projects, all of which will be located in the California desert and all of them will be affecting the habitat of protected animals and plants.
What this means is that every renewable energy developer is going to have to become accustomed to hiring biologists to assist in managing the project in such a way that the impact to the local environment is going to be minimized. There is going to be a lot of attention turned to the way these companies go about their work and the effects their presence have on the local wildlife.
Solar power projects of the magnitude of Ivanpah and similar such as the proposed Blythe Solar Project and the Calico Solar Project have enormous footprints. They cover many acres of land each and it will be essential that the fragile landscape on which they will be placed is not destroyed.
To the developer the desert landscape is a wasteland to be used to collect energy, but the fact is that there is a thriving ecology that could be wiped out with too much destruction.
Even though there have been a number of projects approved by the government, there have also been some concerns raised and plans altered to account for the impact they will have on local animals. How the developers of the Ivanpah project handle the challenges thrown up at them during the construction process could determine whether further projects are allowed to take place.
Already, part of the process of developing the Ivanpah project has involved the forced relocation of desert tortoises. The original proposal of the project was also reduced by just over 10 per cent so that fewer tortoises would need to be moved and so that an area of rare plants could be avoided. This is the kind of thing that all solar energy projects are going to have to deal with.