Tag Archives: Conservation

Interior Department, State of California Announce Innovative Strategy for Renewable Energy and Conservation on Public Lands in California Desert

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird today announced the final environmental review of an innovative landscape-scale blueprint to support renewable energy development and conservation on 10 million acres of federal public lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the California desert. The release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Phase I of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is a major step forward, and a key part of the collaborative effort to streamline renewable energy while conserving unique and valuable desert ecosystems and promoting outdoor recreation opportunities.

The blueprint is part of a larger, comprehensive effort with California, covering 22 million acres in the state’s desert region. Collectively, these lands contain the potential to generate up to 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy development, while meeting federal and state renewable energy and climate change goals through 2040.

Phase I of the DRECP, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, designates Development Focus Areas with high-quality solar, wind and geothermal energy potential, access to transmission and would allow impacts to be managed and mitigated. Applications will benefit from a streamlined permitting process with predictable survey requirements and simplified mitigation measures, and Interior is considering additional financial incentives through an ongoing rulemaking process. The first phase also identifies National Conservation Lands, and designates Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, wildlife allocations and National Scenic and Historic Trail management corridors. These lands would be closed to renewable energy and benefit from adaptive management in the face of climate change.

Read full press release from the U.S. Interior Department and the State of California

 

California’s desert deserves permanent protection

The Times Editorial Board, The Los Angeles Times

After more than six years of analysis, debate and draft proposals, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is close to issuing its final plan for nearly 10 million acres that it controls in the California desert, designating sections for recreation, industry, conservation and renewable energy production. If its most recent “preferred option” prevails, this will be a strong blueprint for the future, protecting the desert’s most pristine and environmentally significant land while making good use of perhaps its best natural resource — abundant sun for solar energy. But one thing has been missing in the BLM’s plan so far: a guarantee that the conserved lands will be protected permanently, as such lands have been everywhere else in the country.

Environmentalists expect the BLM’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan to set aside about a third of its acreage for conservation — 3.5 million acres of land in seven southern California counties. This portion of the acreage is home to iconic species such as the desert tortoise and bighorn sheep, and is the site of petroglyphs and other important historical and archaeological treasures. Slightly less than a tenth of the total land — close to 1 million acres — would be zoned for energy development, largely solar. A second phase of the desert plan, being developed by county and city governments for the areas over which they have jurisdiction, is expected to provide more land for energy development.

Read full editorial in the Los Angeles Times

Have You Heard Of Solar Desalination? If Not, You Will Soon

By Ari Phillips, Climate Progress

Solar power turns the sun’s energy into electricity. Desalination removes unwanted minerals from saltwater so it can be used for drinking or agriculture.

These two technologies have typically been employed separately in the effort to live more sustainably and limit dependence on finite resources. Now in California, a company has found a way to merge the two with the aim of providing long-term relief to farmers suffering the impacts of the state’s devastating four-year drought. The implications are far-reaching, as agriculture accounts for 80 percent of water use in California and roughly 70 percent of water use globally. In California alone, there is an estimated one million acre-feet of irrigation drainage that could be treated and reused if solar desalination catches on.

“Conserving or recycling even a small share of this water can make a big difference,” Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project and a Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, told ThinkProgress.

WaterFX, a San Francisco-based water producer for agricultural and commercial users, recently announced that its California subsidiary, HydroRevolution, plans to build the state’s first commercial solar desalination plant. To be located in the agriculture-intensive Central Valley, the plant will ultimately generate up to 5,000 acre-feet, or 1.6 billion gallons, of clean water per year — enough water for 10,000 homes or 2,000 acres of cropland. It will be built on 35 acres of land currently used to grow salt-tolerant crops, and will recycle unusable irrigation water from a 7,000-acre drainage area into a new and much-needed source of freshwater for nearby water districts by removing unwanted mineral and salts.

Read full article from Climate Progress