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Green energy slowed by turtles, rich people

January 05, 2010
TOPICS: Green energy
America's march toward a green energy future is moving at a turtle's pace, literally.

A plan to install a solar energy complex in California's Mojave Desert has been stalled because two dozen rare tortoises call the strip of land home.

From the L.A. Times:

Oakland, Calif.-based BrightSource Energy has been pushing for more than two years for permission to erect 400,000 mirrors on the site to gather the sun's energy. It could become the first project of its kind on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property, leaving a footprint for others to follow on vast stretches of public land across the West.

The construction would come with a cost: Government scientists have concluded that more than 6 square miles of habitat for the federally threatened desert tortoise would be permanently lost.

The Sierra Club and other environmentalists want the complex relocated to preserve what they call a near-pristine home for rare plants and wildlife, including the protected tortoise, the Western burrowing owl and bighorn sheep.

"It's actually a good project. It's just located in the wrong place," said Ileene Anderson of the Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson, Ariz.-based environmental group.

The dispute is likely to echo for years as more companies seek to develop solar, wind and geothermal plants on land treasured by environmentalists who also support the growth of alternative energy. In an area of stark beauty, the question will be what is worth preserving and at what cost as California pushes to generate one-third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

And on the other side of the country, construction of a Cape Cod wind farm is on hold mainly because resort and home owners along Nantucket Sound don't want to see the turbines.

The U.S. Interior Department says it hopes to reach an agreement by March 1 over the long-delayed project and meetings with the Massachusetts historic preservation office have been scheduled.

From Reuters:

A department spokesman said it was still unclear if representatives of the native tribes that sued to block the project would be invited to next week's meeting. Their status may be affected by the lawsuit, he said.

"I am hopeful that an agreement among the parties can be reached by March 1," U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. "If an agreement among the parties can't be reached, I will be prepared to take the steps necessary to bring the permit process to conclusion."

The Cape Wind project in 2001 became the country's first major proposed offshore wind farm. Its developers, Cape Wind Associates LLC, aim to construct 130 towers, which will soar 440 feet (134 meters) above the surface of the Nantucket Sound.

The proposed $1 billion wind farm would provide electricity to about 400,000 homes, but would be within view of popular Cape Cod resorts and homes, prompting serious opposition from business leaders and politicians.

The tall turbines would be arranged in a grid pattern in 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound, just offshore of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

Salazar had said the department would make a decision on the project by end of last year. But the decision on the wind farm was held up by local native tribes who requested that the area where the project would be located be designated a "traditional cultural property."
 
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