An area 20 miles from Newberry Springs originally identified as one of 24 prime "solar energy zones" in the western United States was taken off a plan designed to speed the development of alternative energy projects.

A study completed in 2010 named 24 different prime solar energy zones in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The study named four in California. One of the zones was for a 23,950 acre parcel of Bureau of Land Management land near Pisgah, in an area between Ludlow and Newberry Springs on both sides of Interstate 40.

A revised study released last week removed two of the solar energy zones in California, including the Pisgah site, and reduced the size of several others, reducing the total acreage amount from about 677,000 acres to about 285,000 acres. The solar energy zones were removed because of resource conflicts or development constraints that make them inappropriate locations for prioritizing solar energy development, according to the BLM.

Calico solar plant to undergo additional environmental study

A solar energy plant proposed near Newberry Springs will have to have an additional environmental study because the developer changed the type of solar technology that will be used, the BLM announced last week.

K Road purchased the Calico Solar Project last year and decided to change the project from the solar thermal SunCatcher dishes to photovoltaic panels with the possibility of using some SunCatcher technology.

The study has not been prepared yet, but the public will have 45 days to comment on it once it is published, according to a statement from the BLM.

Construction of the Calico project is set to begin in early 2013, with two separate phases of construction. The supplemental environmental report would have to be approved by the California Energy Commission before it can begin construction on the part of the part of the project that will use the SunCatcher technology.

First Ivanpah tortoise released into wild

Biologists released a tortoise found on the Ivanpah project site into the wild for the first time in early October.

The tortoises found on the project site have been kept in pens and have been monitored closely by project biologists, according to a posting on Ivanpah's website. The tortoises can only be released during specific times in the spring and fall when the temperature is between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

The tortoises also have to undergo comprehensive medical assessments to make sure that the animal is healthy and does not carry a common and potentially fatal respiratory disease before they are released.

The female that was released has settled into her new home and appears happy and healthy, said BrightSource spokeswoman Kristin Hunter. It's likely that she'll burrow for the remainder of the winter months over the next few weeks.

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