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Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, California, USA

Environmental groups voiced concerns over wildlife and plants. This led to a temporary halt of the large Ivanpah Solar power project, the reduction of its size, and the development and installation of wildlife deterrents.


The state of California, USA has set high goals to shift its energy system towards a more sustainable one based on renewable energy (RE) resources. In 2015, it harvested more solar electricity than all other 49 U.S.A. states combined. Before 2009, no solar projects were permitted on public land in California. By 2015, there were already 29 solar project permissions in the South-West of the USA. Developing large-scale solar projects in the state of California has become increasingly challenging as new federal regulations seek to decrease the environmental footprint and impact of especially large-scale projects. On the other hand, the Obama administration gave the development of renewable energy (RE) sources priority by pledging to generate 20 gigawatts of power by 2020, which equals powering six million homes. [1]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, California, USA
Country:translation missing: en.countries.united_states_of_america
State or province:California
Location of conflict:San Bernandino County
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mega-project solar plants
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Ivanpah SEGS consists of three separate solar thermal power plants that can provide up to 377 megawatts (MW) of net electricity, which shall be sufficient for approximately 140,000 Californian households. [3] According to NREL, the turbine gross capacity is 392 MW and consists of in total three units. The first unit is Ivanpah 1 and has a capacity of 126 MW. Ivanpah 2 and 3 provide 133 MW each. These three units and their total capacity made ISEGS at the time of its construction the “largest solar thermal power tower system in the world providing an annual planned electricity generation of 1,079,232 MWh/year. [2] The overall number of heliostats is 173,500 each consisting of two mirrors. The power receiver is manufactured by Riley Power and located on the tower in the center of the field 459 feet high. The receiver’s outlet and inlet temperature are 1050 F respectively 480 F leaving a receiver temperature difference of 570 F. The fossil fuel backup is based on natural gas, the power plant does not have a thermal storage. [3]

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Project area:1,416
Level of Investment:2,200,000,000.00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:unknown
Start of the conflict:2007
End of the conflict:2017
Company names or state enterprises: Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) from United States of America
Southern California Edison (SCE) from United States of America
Bechtel Engineering (Bechtel) from United States of America - ‘Engineering-Procurement-Construction’ (EPC)
Google Inc. from United States of America - investor
Relevant government actors:U.S. Department of Energy
California Energy Commission
U.S. Bureau of Landmanagement
International and Finance InstitutionsNRG Energy (NRG) from United States of America - Finance
BrightSource Energy (BrightSource) from United States of America - Financing and Developer
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Defenders of Wildlife
Sierra Club
California Unions for Reliable Energy
Basin and Range Watch
Center for Biological Diversity
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Chemehuevi, Colorado River Indian Tribe and Ron Van Fleet (Fort Mohave Indian Tribe)   
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Desertification/Drought
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:The organizations Defenders of the Wildlife and Sierra Club proposed to relocate the power plant to land where the desert tortoise is less affected. [8]
Another alternative proposal was to take conservation measurements and decrease the site’s size in order to ensure the survival of the desert tortoise species, which is the option eventually taken. Further, a fence around the plant’s site was installed and holes for ‘roadrunners’ cut into it. (see description, above).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Rather yes. It seems that the developer company BSE is doing a lot in order to avoid the ISEGS project to run into environmental conflicts. Using and developing different technologies of bird and wildlife deterrents, building a fence for the desert tortoise, shrinking the total project’s energy output by 12% to protect plants as well as cutting holes again in the same fence so that roadrunners do not become prey of coyotes show some effort of mitigating environmental impacts and conflicts.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] B. E. Hagerty and C. R. Tracy, “Defining population structure for the Mojave desert tortoise,” Conserv. Genet., vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 1795–1807, Oct. 2010
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[14] “IVANPAH | Department of Energy.” (U.S. Department of Energy) (Accessed: 23-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[12] “Ivanpah Temporary Suspension Notice | Appeal | Business,” (US Bureau of land Mangement, 2011) (Accessed: 23-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[13] “Pacific Southwest Region - US Fish & Wildlife Service.” (US Bureau of Land Mangement) (Accessed: 23-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[9] “A Western Water War Slows Some Solar Projects - The New York Times,” (The New York Times, T. Woody, SEPT. 29, 2009)
[click to view]

[1] “Huge solar farm opens in California: Enough energy for 160,000 homes - Los Angeles Times,” (Los Angeles Times, Goldenstein, Taylor, 2015) [Online accessed 04-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[2] “Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System | Concentrating Solar Power Projects.” (NREL) (Accessed: 23-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[3] “The Ivanpah solar energy project named Concentrating Solar Power project of the year | REVE News of the wind sector in Spain and in the world.” (Reve Wind, 02-22-2012) (Accessed: 23-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[4] “Preventing Bird Deaths at Solar Power Plants, Part 1 - Renewable Energy World,” (Renewable Energy World, S. Kraemer, 09.11.2014) (Accessed: 24-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[5] “Solar Towers Don’T Seem To Be The Bird Destroyers Once Thought IEEE Spectrum - IEEE Spectrum,” 2015. (IEEE Spectrum, P. Fairley, 02-Nov-2015 ) (Accessed: 24-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[6] “This Mojave Desert solar plant kills 6,000 birds a year. Here’s why that won’t change any time soon,” 2016. (Los Angeles Times, Louis Sahagun, Sep. 2, 2016) (Accessed: 06.Nov 2019)
[click to view]

[8] “BrightSource Alters Solar Plant Plan to Address Concerns Over Desert Tortoise - The New York Times,” 2010. (The New York Times, T. Woody, February 11, 2010 ) (Accessed: 23-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[10] “Tribes join protests of Ivanpah solar project | Las Vegas Review-Journal,” 2010. (Review Journal Las Vegas,September 14, 2010 ) (Accessed: 28-Oct-2019).
[click to view]

[11] “A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants,” (New York Times, T.Woody, JUNE 18, 2009) (Accessed: 24-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

[15] “Google Pulls the Plug on a Renewable Energy Effort - The New York Times,” (New York Times,Matthew L. Wald , November 28, 2011) (accessed: 23-Oct-2019)
[click to view]

Other documents

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) - arial view Arial view on the ISEGS power plant - Picture retrieved from:
[click to view]

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Contributor:ENVJUSTICE/ICTA interns 2019
Last update05/11/2019
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