Large-scale expansion of solar power facilities like this one in the Mojave Desert could pose significant threats to water and wildlife habitat in three National Park Service properties, according to a memo from a regional NPS official. Photo courtesy of the Energy Department.
A National Park Service official has warned the Bureau of Land Management that approving dozens of solar power plants in southern Nevada could dramatically impact water supplies across the arid Mojave Desert region.
An estimated 63 large-scale solar projects are proposed for BLM lands in the region, and the plants are expected to use a large amount of groundwater to cool and wash solar panels, according to the Feb. 5 memorandum sent by Jon Jarvis, director of the Park Service's Pacific West Region, to BLM's associate state director in Nevada.
BLM officials declined to publicly respond to the issues raised in the memo, although Linda Resseguie, a BLM project manager in Washington, said there is "great sensitivity" within the agency to concerns over solar power plant siting.
The bureau is conducting a programmatic environmental impact statement to be released this fall that will gauge the effects of proposed solar power development on Nevada and five other Western states, and discuss management strategies for how best to address the issue.