BrightSource Energy wants to build concentrated solar power (CSP) plants, not tend to the mating issues of desert tortoises and red-tailed hawks.
But such is life as a large energy project developer in the Mojave Desert with the eyes of environmentalist and regulators upon it. The latest impediment to BrightSource's progress, following the withdrawal of its IPO last week and its ongoing tortoise conservancy program, are some mating pairs of red-tailed hawks nesting in the way of a power line.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported on Sunday that crews won't be able to complete a transmission line upgrade for the massive Ivanpah solar project "until after the hawk nesting season ends in August."
A spokesman for BrightSource Energy has told Greentech Media that the birds will have "absolutely zero impact to the schedule of delivery for the Ivanpah project. All three plants at the Ivanpah project will be delivering power on schedule in 2013."
Southern California Edison work crews are upgrading a 35-mile span of transmission lines on public land -- moving from a single 115-kilovolt line to two 230-kilovolt lines, according to the article.
In addition to hawks, BrightSource has had to contend with cold-blooded animals such as tortoises and environmentalists.
Last year, the Ivanpah plant was the target of legal action from an environmental group despite approval of the project by both the Department of the Interior and the state of California. To mollify some objections, BrightSource scaled down the size of the project as part of the environmental mitigation process.
BrightSource also has had to mitigate its environmental footprint to contend with the desert tortoise by avoiding long-term impacts to 433 acres of habitat, as well as acquiring additional land off the Ivanpah site for tortoise relocation within their home range. The 433 acres of habitat on the site and the additional mitigation land would remain available to tortoises for foraging, cover, and other lifecycle requirements. While it is unknown how many tortoises would be in this area at the time of construction, three of the 20 live tortoises observed within the project boundary during the 2007 and 2008 surveys would be avoided, resulting in the need to relocate about 15 percent fewer tortoises. At a minimum, 17 existing burrows in this area would also be preserved. Here's a link to a Biological Mitigation Document involving desert tortoises, rare plants, soil, and visual impact.
BrightSource has spent "a surprising amount of money" for tortoise mitigation, according to Bechtel -- the firm has to buy mitigation land whether they find a tortoise or not. BrightSource also has to monitor each tortoise for five years and perform a blood analysis to check for respiratory diseases. BrightSource has had up to 100 biologists working at the Ivanpah site (!).