BLM Approves Next Phase of Construction at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System
Establishes Head-Start Program to Care for Juvenile Desert Tortoise and Nurture Repopulation
Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a Notice to Proceed for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), providing approval for ISEGS’ EPC partner, Bechtel Power Corporation, to resume the next phase of construction at Ivanpah. The announcement follows today’s issuance of a revised biological opinion from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS). The project commenced construction in October 2010 and remains on schedule.
In January 2011, BrightSource proactively requested the government agencies to revisit the original biological opinion for the Ivanpah project as the company learned that there could be more desert tortoise on the project site than original estimates indicated. In April 2011, at the BLM’s request, Bechtel limited construction activity to the Ivanpah 1 plant, the common area and the Ivanpah 2 power block area, pending a revised biological opinion. The issuance of a revised biological opinion from USFWS also provides BrightSource with updated guidance on caring for and moving the desert tortoise found on site.
“We’re pleased to move forward with the next phase of construction at Ivanpah. We look forward to hiring more workers, giving them good jobs, and to providing clean, reliable and cost-effective solar power at a meaningful scale,” says John Woolard, President and CEO of BrightSource Energy, Inc. “We’re setting the bar at a very high level when it comes to desert tortoise protection and care. Every worker on site knows that their two highest priorities are human safety and desert tortoise protection.”
Today’s news of the project’s continued progress earned high praise from workers and local community leaders who view the Ivanpah project as a catalyst for economic growth in California’s High Desert region. NRG Energy, a Fortune 500 electricity producer and retailer, is the lead investor in the project, which uses BrightSource’s solar thermal technology and also includes a $168 million investment from global technology leader Google.
“The High Desert has been hard hit by the recession, but solar projects like Ivanpah are bringing much needed economic opportunity and investment to our region,” said Ryan McEachron, mayor of Victorville.
Ivanpah currently has 500 workers on site, including biologists and trade workers from California’s High Desert. The project will create an estimated 1,000 union jobs at the peak of construction. The project will also provide $350 million in local and state tax revenues and produce $650 million in wages over the first 30 years of operations.
Launches Desert Tortoise Head-Start Program
The Mojave Desert, which spans 20 million acres of land across four states, is home to the desert tortoise, a federally-listed “threatened” species. BrightSource and its partners NRG, Bechtel and Google are all committed to providing the best care possible for the desert tortoise found on the Ivanpah site. Each day, up to 100 trained desert tortoise biologists are present on the project site, supervising construction activity to ensure that tortoises are not physically harmed in any way and given the highest levels of care.
“One of the biggest challenges facing the desert tortoise population is the high mortality rates for juveniles due to high predation rates. Head-starting in areas where tortoises have been depleted for other reasons is a significant step in the right direction,” says Mercy Vaughn, the lead biologist for the Ivanpah project. “This project is leading the way for private industry serving as a proactive model in conservation of the threatened desert tortoise.”
To help facilitate the rebuilding of the desert tortoise population in the Ivanpah Valley area, the company has established a head-start program at the Ivanpah project site. Head-start programs have been found to provide a critical avenue for enhancing repopulation of the desert tortoise by providing support and protection for hatchling and juvenile tortoises during approximately the first five years of life, or until they are large enough to resist predators. In their natural environment, less than ten percent of juvenile desert tortoises survive beyond five years of age due to predation from ravens, kit foxes, and coyotes and other factors such as drought and disease.