However, first the company will have to relocate the nearby desert tortoises. It seems the garage-door-sized mirrors — 347,000 of them — will displace the animals. But that's only one hurdle to be surmounted.
Environmentalists oppose the project’s impact on all surrounding wildlife, including the desert tortoise, and may sue to stop construction. But other, larger obstacles, like the transmission lines that must be built to carry power to the cities, and the uncertainty of obtaining federal dollars, are more difficult to resolve. An October 28 New York Times article observes:
BrightSource's website describes the ISEGS as "comprised of three separate plants to be built between 2010 and 2013 starting this fall. The electricity generated by all three plants is enough to serve more than 140,000 homes in California during the peak hours of the day," noting that the complex is "located ... on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management."
Solar thermal energy is a technology for harnessing solar energy for thermal energy, differing from photovoltaics, which converts solar energy directly into electricity. But the use of solar power, thermal or otherwise, is not as reliable as purported. Maintenance proves to be a problem and the savings aren’t realized in actual applications.
The Times article continues:
With both Democrats and Republicans promising to rein in the federal budget, it is unclear whether lawmakers will extend the programs in any form. Ivanpah is the first California project to win a government loan guarantee. In that cash-strapped state, suffering from high unemployment, this and eight other projects will create an estimated 8,000 jobs; 1,000 employees will be needed during the three-year construction phase. (But there is no mention of how many jobs will be lost because of the increased cost of energy to businesses.)
One factor driving ISEGS and other solar projects is the state’s mandate that California utilities obtain a third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. However, in other areas of the country where green power is offered, it doesn’t always work.
Bullard continued, “Without the Department of Energy coming in to assume a lot of the risk, you might not find lenders willing to lend, particularly if you’re a start-up with untried technology.”
The use of solar energy is still unreliable and expensive, and with the economic climate as grossly unbalanced as it is, government-guaranteed loans for large projects with dubious benefits are irresponsible.
Decisions about energy production and consumption are better left in the hands of the private sector.