Mojave Renewable Solutions

The implementation of wise energy practices will take wise planning, good science, appropriate use of technology and most of all careful evaluation of what works best for the sustainability of the local community. We have an unprecedented level of local citizen engagement, several very active local community groups, good collaboration history with local Agencies (the BLM is a good example) and strong commitment from local politicians to listen to us-the locals.

How then do we galvanize all this into successful action that ensures that we make wise land-development decisions here in the Mojave and do our part to ensure that we all follow a Sustainable Energy Pathway for the Mojave and California?  In other words what can we do at the local level to protect our future and way of life, without being NIMBYS (Not In My Backyard) activists-a selfish protecting of our own interests without a care for others. Locally, we acknowledge that we have some of the best conditions for solar-electric generation and already have major transmission corridors transmitting the power to LA and must take responsibility to find solutions and “do our part”

Well the devil as always is in the details. Renewable Energy is part of our future but the current trend to build large, industrial-scale generation plants like the Ivanpah project are unsustainable and transmission upgrades (SCE-Coolwater Lugo) are unnecessary.

The Controversial  BrightSource-Ivanpah project, the world’s largest solar thermal facility.

Here at the Sustainable Learning Center we have followed this once “much anticipated’ project since the early construction phase. See our video below filmed in 2012 looking at  its promise and impacts, at the time of construction shut-down for Desert Tortoise mitigation.

We continue to believe that there are some very positive and negative lessons to learn about the future of these types of projects in our deserts of California. We need to find better solutions in the context of ensuring sustainability- balancing, economic, social and environmental health of local communities, California and the world.

In this video Dave Miller does a wonderful job of discussing the current dilemmas in RE and presents the perfect solution of putting the control back with taxpayers via Distributed Generation

Fortunately there is plenty of good science, proven practices and experience that point to which solutions would be optimum. In the interest of making sense of this very complex arena, we have organized the discussion into five categories:

  1. Social Action- exploring local solutions to sustaining the local way of life (addressed in this Blog)
  2. Energy and Land-Use Policy- exploring how policy is developed and implemented
  3. Economic Drivers- exploring how RE energy can support local jobs ,tax base and economic growth.
  4. Ecosystem Integrity- minimizing ecosystem disruption and implementing restoration best practice
  5. Appropriate use of technology- maximizing efficiency and location of infrastructure

This Blog series will discuss workable solutions, towards RE technology and infrastructure that is state-of the-art/efficient, located at point-of-use and causes minimal disturbance to local “way-of -life”, while supporting economic stability and ecosystem health.

So why is smart, educated, focused  Social Action so important?

The people of the world are deeply concerned about the future of our earth- you do not need to be very “awake” to realize that we are depleting our natural resources, our social institutions are mess and the “Have Nots” are having less!! Andres Edwards in his wonderful book “The Sustainability Revolution” quotes Paul Hawken’s estimate that there are 30,000 sustainability groups in the US and tens of thousands more worldwide. These groups focus on many aspects of sustainable development but all have the common theme of inspiring governments, natural resource managers, business, communities and individuals to take responsibility and work together to implement Sustainable Solutions*

In the Mojave, community groups have a wonderful legacy of working together on diverse issues that range from sustainable mining to water conservation.

The recent applications for a slew of large/industrial RE generation and transmission infrastructure in our backyards has galvanized groups such as : Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association (LEVEDA), California Desert Coalition (CDC), Friends of Juniper Flats, Mojave Resource Conservation District (MDRCD), Alliance for Desert Preservation, Morongo Basin Conservation Association, WildLands Conservancy, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, National Parks Conservation Association- to work taking action within their capabilities and sphere of influence.

One of the most exciting developments this past year was the formation of the Mojave Communities Conservation Collaborative MC3  That was formed to give the people of east Apple Valley a voice in these discussions.

Mission: To save our Mojave Desert Communities, through collaboration with like organizations. Promote local stakeholder education and empowerment, conserve our natural ecosystems, preserve our rural way of life and pass-forward this heritage to future generations.

Current focus is to educate the public about and provide comments on:

  • SCE’s Coolwater Lugo Transmission Project and it’s 165 acres sub-station slated for SE Apple Valley, currently weaving its way through the CPUC process. This project will open the floodgates for a valley floor full of industrial scale solar “farms” and foothills covered in wind turbines.
  • The SPARC planning initiative, San Bernardino County’s, response to the new renewable energy requirements under state and federal legislation. Here is an excerpt from the County SPARC website: “San Bernardino County is creating a Renewable Energy Element for the General Plan. The project, the San Bernardino County Partnership for Renewable Energy and Conservation (SPARC), will provide the County and decision-makers with a framework that supports appropriate renewable energy development while protecting existing community and natural resources.”
  • The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), an 8000 + page planning document intended to “fast track” industrial scale renewable energy projects in our desert. An excerpt from the DRECP website describes the plan: “The (DRECP) is an innovative, landscape-scale renewable energy and conservation planning effort covering more than 22 million acres in the California desert. The DRECP planning area covers private, state and federal lands in seven counties–Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego”

Education (the 4th E of sustainability) is considered the “oil” that drives successful sustainable practices and movements. The SLC is collaborating with MC3 and LVEDA to sponsor a series of Renewable Energy Educational Workshops. The first of these is scheduled for January 22nd, Agenda below.

“Light or Blight- Renewable Energy in the Mojave”

Thursday, January 22, 2015, 5.00-8.30 PM

Victor Valley Museum, Apple Valley, CA

Purpose: Educate attendees on the sustainability of current renewable energy initiatives. Explore innovative solutions, the policy, the science, and best practice that support them.

Target Audience: Local Policy Makers/Planners, Natural Resource Managers, RE Energy Professionals, Environmental and Social Action Groups and Concerned Citizens


Welcome:   Neville Slade

Introductory Video, “Letter Home” by Dave Miller

Is our current Renewable Energy development path sustainable?

Topics and Speakers

Environmental Impacts, Science and Restoration Roundtable

  • What are the consequences of total desert destruction? Peter McRae
  • What are the potential habitat and biodiversity impacts? Stephanie Dashielle (what policy is in place vv. ESA, is it working, impacts like habitat fragmentation, Wildlife Corridors…
  • What are the best practices for desert restoration? – Dr. Ken Liar

Question and Answer (15 minute)

Appropriate use and implementation of Technology

  • What is the “state of the art” in the technology? -Tony Malone
  • How to ensure a sustainable energy future? – Scott Friar
  • How do local communities choose an energy path? City of Lancaster

Question and Answer (15 minute)

Current Legislation and Social Solutions

  • What is currently driving RE legislation and policy?
  • How is environmental policy developed in the USA -Dino Bozonelos
  • How can local community groups take action- Lorri Steely

Question and Answer (15 minute)

Successful Local Community Engagement and Solutions Discussion (30 minutes)

  • Open discussion with all Panel members and participants

Sponsors: Sustainable Learning Center;  Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association;Mojave Communities Conservation Collaborative

Contact: Lorrie Steely, Mojave Communities Conservation Collaborative, Ph: 760-985-8744

More information and background at SLC and MC3 Websites