Press Release Sep 15, 2014

There Will be Bird Deaths: California Energy Commission Announces Preliminary Approval for Solar Tower Near Joshua Tree National Park

Proposed decision to approve construction is dangerous to wildlife and park landscapes

Background: At a time when the State of California is definitively on track to reach its Renewable Portfolio Standards, the California Energy Commission (CEC) on Friday issued a proposed preliminary decision approving the Palen Solar Electric Generating System, noting that this project “will cause significant unmitigated impacts to biological, cultural, and visual resources.” Concurrently, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be reviewing the Palen project to determine whether it should grant a right-of-way and subject its sister agency, the National Park Service, to significant unmitigated impacts. Both the BLM and the CEC have a responsibility to ensure that the project does not harm national park resources

Statement by Seth Shteir, California Desert Senior Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association

“The California Energy Commission (CEC) proposed decision to approve construction of the Palen Solar Electric Generating System is as dangerous as it is disheartening for wildlife, scenic vistas and our responsible renewable energy future. What was originally proposed as a conventional solar panel project has morphed into a 750-foot high tower and thousands of surrounding high intensity mirrors to be placed directly underneath the Pacific Flyway, a critical migratory pathway used by hundreds of bird species each year and just miles away from Joshua Tree National Park.

“The CEC concedes that the Palen solar power tower would kill migrating eagles, raptors and songbirds from deadly solar flux, caused by radiating heat from the solar panels, and avian collisions, yet irresponsibly prioritizes it over the protection of California’s beloved Joshua Tree National Park. The Palen solar project also stands to mar Joshua Tree National Park’s pristine undeveloped vistas and cause light pollution that would harm the park’s clear, dark night skies – attributes that a vast majority of Joshua Tree National Park’s more than 1.3 million annual visitors find very or extremely important to their national park experience.

“The CEC and BLM should demonstrate that our national parks and nearby desert economies need not be sacrificed by poorly sited energy development, and we call on these agencies to reject the Palen solar project.“

Statement by Mark Butler, former Superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park

"As a former superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park and somebody who cares deeply for the California Desert, I’m disappointed in the recent California Energy Commission preliminary decision regarding the Palen Solar Energy Generating System (PSEGS). The PSEGS, even in a modified form, will irrevocably harm Joshua Tree National Park’s sweeping scenic vistas, as well as migrating and protected bird species like the golden eagle that travel through the park. The bottom line is that we should invest in renewable energy opportunities that unlike the Palen project, protect species, viewsheds and communities.”

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About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.