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Are some solar projects no longer ‘green’?

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“I don’t see us putting 80 solar projects on BLM land, there’s no way. I don’t see us putting 30,” says Mr. Miller, who notes the agency must manage the land for multiple uses. “And I hope the solar industry hears me on that.”

The BLM’s pace has displeased some in Congress. Rep. Jon Porter (R) of Nevada introduced a bill last week that would limit the BLM’s permit process to 180 days. And Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) of California is proposing doing away with environmental impact reviews. Mr. Rohrabacher says he is trying to “make sure that people who have something to offer other human beings [won’t] be stymied because the BLM thinks insects or reptiles are more important.”

Currently, all eyes are on the Ivanpah Valley, where BrightSource Energy, Inc. has proposed a concentrated solar facility that is furthest along with the BLM. BrightSource wants to build 400 megawatts of solar generation using hundreds of thousands of mirrors across 3,400 acres.

Walking in Ivanpah Valley, Mr. Hiatt points out the nearby Mojave National Preserve as well as various developments within view. These include a natural-gas power plant, a golf course, and the Nevada town of Primm. The dry lake at the bottom of the valley could become the home of a second major airport for Las Vegas, prompting Mr. Hiatt to question whether the mirrors will blind pilots.

BrightSource’s application says all vegetation within the fields of mirrors “will be cut to the soil surface to reduce the risk of fire.” Hiatt says that will cause long-term soil damage.

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