News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by

Big renewable energy projects threaten Mojave desert wildlife

Some of the 24,000 mirrors called
Some of the 24,000 mirrors called "heliostats" at the eSolar Sierra SunTower power plant in Lancaster, California in the Mojave Desert approximately 70 miles (110 km) north of Los Angeles May 12, 2011. eSolar's concentrated solar power (CSP) system uses the movable heliostats to reflect solar heat to a thermal receiver mounted atop two towers. Electrical power is produced when the focused heat boils water within the thermal receiver and produces steam, which is then piped to a nearby reconditioned 1947 GE turbine generator to produce electricity. Sierra SunTower is the only commercial CSP tower facility in North America.

Listen to story

Download this story 4MB

Right nextdoor to the Salton Sea is another focus for conservationists: the Mojave desert. It spans 25,000 square miles over California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona, and it contains the national parks Death Valley and Joshua Tree, among other attractions.

The are is home to thousands of different plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. But this vast wilderness could be threatened by another environmental interest,  renewable energy.

In recent years, the Mojave desert has become a hot spot for the development of solar and wind power plants. Reporter Judith Mernit, who wrote about this for High Country News, joins the show with more.