One of the most ambitious solar thermal projects ever attempted in the U.S. will be shrunk by around 12 percent due to concerns about the habitat of the desert tortoise.
BrightSource Energy will reduce the size of the proposed Ivanpah plant from 440 megawatts to 392 megawatts, according to the New York Times. The reduction effectively will allow the project to skirt an area where rare desert plants grow and thus will reduce the number of tortoises that will need to be relocated. The plant can't get any smaller, however, and still remain economically viable, BrightSource warns. 
In the past, the growing solar industry has often had to contend with small-government advocates, as well as the oil and gas industry. Solar requires subsidies, for the foreseeable future, to be competitive with traditional forms of power. But lately, it has also had to contend with objections from the political left. Last year, solar and wind companies curtailed plans to pursue projects in a section of California's Mojave Desert after U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to preserve approximately 1 million acres of the Mojave. (Similar concerns about the desert tortoise helped curb the use of off-road vehicles in the Mojave years ago.)
Ivanpah is the first of several projects being pursued in the state by BrightSource. Stirling Energy Systems also wants to erect solar thermal plants. These companies have already signed contracts to sell the power to utilities in the state. Investor-owned utilities are required to get 20 percent of their power from "new" renewable sources by 2010 and most are behind. It appears that most will have to take advantage of the three-year grace period.
Or come up with new ways to create power. Like a coal plant.