Energy

California Blocks Huge Solar Power Plant To Protect Sheep

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

San Bernardino officials blocked a solar power plant from being built in the Mojave Desert, because they were concerned that it would inconvenience sheep.

Officials backed environmentalist claims the power plant was one of the “nation’s worst renewable energy proposals” for reducing the habitat of bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep are not even close to being endangered, and are actually listed as a “Least Concerned” species, meaning that their population is stable.

“We endorse renewable energy, but this was the wrong project in the wrong location,” Robert A. Lovingood, a members of San Bernardino’s County Board of Supervisors, told The Los Angles Times.

If the plant had been constructed, it would have generated about 264 megawatts of electricity. The project had previously been approved by federal authorities and would have pumped about $30 million into the local economy.

“We remain committed to seeing the many benefits of Soda Mountain Solar through to fruition, including hundreds of well-paying local union jobs, economic benefits to the county and local economy, and the production of clean solar energy to meet California’s growing demand,” Reyad Fezzani, chairman and CEO of the company behind the solar project, told The Los Angles Times.

Fezzani suggested the supervisors’ vote was motivated by “emotive arguments by opponents based on fear and misunderstanding.”

Government officials have opened up half a million acres of the Mojave desert, an area half the size of Rhode Island, to development by solar and wind power. The Department of the Interior claims that the area could support up to 20,000 megawatts of green energy projects. The secretary of the interior even said that such public lands will “play a key role” in helping the Obama administration meet its goal of supplying 20 percent of its electricity from green energy sources (excluding large hydro dams) by 2030, up from about 7 percent now.

Environmental groups like the Center For Biological Diversity have pursued legal action to block the creation of solar-farms in the Mojave desert out of fear that they would encroach on 32 endangered desert tortoises, and that sunlight-concentrating panels act like super-heated death-rays for birds, killing tens of thousands of them.

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