9th Circuit Won’t Block Solar Plant Construction

     (CN) – The 9th Circuit refused to halt a $2.2 billion solar energy project in California over fears that it will harm desert tortoises and other wildlife.
     Western Watersheds Project claims that environmental plans for the plant, being built on about 3,500 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert, do not sufficiently protect endangered tortoises and birds.
     A federal judge similarly declined to stop construction of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) last year, and the Pasadena-based federal appeals panel followed suit on Friday, denying Western Watershed’s motion for a preliminary injunction.
     The 370-megawatt Ivanpah project will include three power plants and is expected to nearly double the nation’s solar thermal electricity output when completed in 2013, according to plant developers NRG Energy, Google and BrightSource Energy.
     The companies announced in a blog post last week that the project had reached the halfway point and now employs more than 2,000 workers.
     The 9th Circuit held that the lower court had properly balanced the public’s needs with those of the environment when it denied Western Watersheds’ motion.
     “In balancing the equities, the district court properly weighed the environmental harm posed by the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System project against the possible damage to project funding, jobs, and the state and national renewable energy goals that would result from an injunction halting project construction, and concluded that the balance favored appellees,” the judges concluded.
     They said the lower court had also properly considered the federal government’s “stated goal of increasing the supply of renewable energy and addressing the threat posed by climate change, as well as California’s argument that the ISEGS project is critical to the state’s goal of reducing fossil fuel use, thereby reducing pollution and improving health and energy security in the state.”

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