We pushed and pushed, and finally got what we asked for: non carbon-based energy. After years of weaving through red tape, the Israeli company BrightSource Energy finally received the go ahead to build the world’s largest Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant in the California desert. When it is completed, it will double the amount of solar energy available in the United States.
It has emerged, however, that both BrightSource and Solar Millennium are stepping on toes and that their energy generation may be haunted: not only will the desert tortoise be relocated, but Native Americans suggest that the mirrors will displace other animals, as well as sensitive plants, and perhaps most controversially, the plants could destroy sites that are considered sacred to Native Americans. “Phillip Smith, a Chemehuevi who’s an elder in the Colorado River Indian Tribe, and the Rev. Ron Van Fleet of the Fort Mohave Indian Tribe, call [Ivanpah] a sacred place. Their ancestors have come to these “altars” for centuries to worship the divine and admire the Mojave Desert,” according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The place Mr. Smith refers to is the intended site for BrightSource Energy’s CSP plant.
In addition, the desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, hawks, snakes, and important medicinal plants are in danger, though BrightSource has made plans to coordinate with specialists to remove the tortoises.
Solar Millennium’s Blythe Solar Project is said to threaten the Blythe Intaglios. These geoglyphs – petroglyphs carved into the ground – are best seen from above as a result of their immensity. Depicting various species of animals and potentially powerful individuals, they are crucial to Native American creation mythology. According to Brad Olsen, author of “Sacred Places North America: 108 Destinations,” the Mohave and Quechan Indians believe these figures represent Mastamho, who is the creator of all life.
In a petition addressed to the California Energy Commission and the Bureau of Land Management, activists complain that in an effort to secure government financial incentives that require building to commence by the end of 2010, these projects have been “fast-tracked,” without giving sufficient credence to the cultural heritage of Native Americans. Nearly 300 people have signed the petition.
Both BrightSource Energy and Solar Millenium retort that the Native Americans have had years to lodge complaints that are only surfacing now.
“Rachel McMahon, director of governmental affairs for Solar Millennium LLC, which has offices in Berkeley, said the project has been redesigned repeatedly to avoid archaeological sites, and the company will hire a tribal representative to monitor construction,” according to Press Enterprise.
An environmentalist from Nevada claims that there are other suitable sites on which to build.
“Solar energy is really necessary in the future but it doesn’t make any sense if we’re trying to save the environment and we destroy the best parts of it,” Hiatt told LVRJ.
Anthony Madrigal, the director of policy and cultural resources for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, told Press Enterprise “that tribes’ comments often fall on deaf ears and projects just go forward.”
In response to claims that any damage will be “mitigated,” he claimed that mitigation often only amounts to creating a written record, and that Native Americans think of it more as “destruction.”
More on BrightSource Energy:
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