A new land rush of large-scale solar project proposals have been filed for nearly 60,000 acres of public lands so far adjacent to Death Valley National Park in Nevada.

The public lands around the Ghost Town of Rhyolite, the Town of Beatty, Oasis Valley, Sarcobatus Flat, and the headwaters of the Amargosa River are currently under threat of large-scale energy development--a surprising turn of events for this remote Nevada desert region at the eastern Gateway of Death Valley National Park.

Although solar panels could easily be built on the huge number of rooftops in urban areas, and on thousands of acres of parking lots using solar canopies, the cheap leases energy developers can obtain by building on public lands has resulted in a land-rush for flat Mojave Desert and Great Basin valleys surrounding the viewscape of Rhyolite Ghost Town, and in Amargosa Valley and Sarcobatus Flat with many applications to develop thousands of acres of utility-scale solar projects.

This is one of the largest threats Rhyolite has faced since its beginning.

Large-scale solar projects would not only threaten the integral desert landscapes around Rhyolite, Beatty, Oasis Valley, and Sarcobatus Flat, but these proposed energy developments would harm wildlife, the desert tortoise, bird migration corridors, and would impair or block popular recreational routes in the area. Proposed utility-scale solar projects of thousands of acres would destroy the vision of the desert framing Albert Szukalski's sculptures.

We support solar energy, but not here!

Utility-scale photovoltaic solar project in the West Mojave Desert of Kern County, California. Aerial photo by Tom Egan.

Utility-scale photovoltaic solar project in the West Mojave Desert of Kern County, California. Aerial photo by Tom Egan.

Utility-scale photovoltaic solar project in the West Mojave Desert of Kern County, California. The desert vegetation is mowed and driven upon. Aerial photo by Tom Egan.

Sunshine Valley Solar Project in Amargosa Valley, Nevada under construction using the latest best practices and mitigations measures of mowing the Mojave Desert scrub while building photovoltaic solar arrays on top of the desert flats. Even with this type of mitigation, the solar project is highly destructive to the desert, to viewscapes, and to historic and recreational values.

Diesel scraper-grader constructing new roads and material lay-down areas, and operation and maintenance building pads, on the 3,000-acre Yellow Pine Solar Project by NextEra Energy in Clark County, Nevada, south Pahrump Valley. This was formerly undisturbed Mojave Desert on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Source: US Department of Energy.

View from Clark Mountain of the large Silver State South Solar Project in operation on former desert tortoise habitat in Ivanpah Valley next to Primm, Nevada. In operation. A small natural gas generating station is surrounded by solar panels to the left: solar energy is very land-intensive.

New chainlink 8-feet high installed around the Yellow Pine Solar Project under construction in Pahrump Valley, Nevada, soon to be topped with barbed wire to keep people out of these public lands.

Photovoltaic solar project with Lithium-ion battery banks, Bouldery City Green Zone, Eldorado Valley, Clark County, Nevada. The solar panels reflect the sky and create a "lake effect" that attracts birds flying overhead. Photo: Judy Bundorf.

Avian-solar impacts

Source: US Department of Energy.

Collisions of waterbirds on solar projects as birds migrate over the desert between the Pacific Ocean, Colorado River, and inland lakes like Mono lake and Great Salt Lake.

Water truck undertaking dust control during construction on the Silver State Solar Project near Primm, Nevada.

Solar Projects are Huge

Airplane view of construction on the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station in California, on previously undisturbed Mojave Desert alluvial fans and basin. These are all new roads bladed into the alluvial fan.

Utility-scale solar project impacts, clockwise from upper lfet: Joshua trees bulldozed and piled up to build a solar project in the West Mojave Desert, CA; Mojave Desert area graded flat to build a solar project in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone north of Las Vegas, NV; dust storm and violations at the Sunshine Valley Solar Project in Amargosa Valley, NV (the sign tells you where to call to report dust);glint and glare on the Silver State Solar Project in Ivanpah Valley, NV; night-lighting during construction of the Yellow Pine Solar Project, south Pahrump Valley, NV; posts to support solar arrays on mowed and crushed Mojave Desert scrub, contruction of Yellow Pine Solar Project, NV.

June 5, 2021 - Rhyolite NV - NextEra Energy is proposing a utilty-scale solar project of 6,500 acres next to the famous Rhyolite Ghost Town, along the boundary of Death Valley National Park, and the project would surround the Titus Canyon Road entrance.

On land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, this is in Variance land under the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, and is outside of a Solar Energy Zone.

Highway 374 in Nevada heading from Beatty to Death Valley National Park at Daylight Pass. To the right is the exit route to Titus Canyon. The solar project would fill this scene. The proposed large-scale solar projects would also surround the entrance road to the famous Titus Canyon, a gorge and slot canyon in Death Valley National Park. The one-way tour route starts outside of the park on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and the solar project is proposed on either side of this scenic dirt road.

Solar Projects Threaten Rhyolite and Titus Canyon Road

Detail of map produced by the Town of Beatty showing solar project applications around Beatty, the ghost town of Rhyolite, and the Titus Canyon entrance road.

Another large solar project, SB Solar, also is proposed for this region of the northern Amargosa Valley on public land in Nevada next to Death Valley. The proposed Greenlink West Transmission Project would open up this remote and beautiful northern Mojave Desert region for large-scale energy development, and the local town and many visitors say No!

The latest big solar land rush is the result of large transmission projects that are being aggressively pushed for approval in western Nevada on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

These are called Greenlink West and Gridliance. New proposed substations would allow very large energy projects to hook into these lines and export power to the north and out of state. Greenlink West would run from Las Vegas to Reno and power is intended to go to large tech factories like Tesla and Blockchain. Gridliance would export power from all Nevada projects to California.

Existing transmission lines are also being claimed for use to support large-scale solar projects, such as the 230 kiloVolt transmission line in Amargosa Valley (owned by NextEra Energy) connecting to the Beatty Substation (owned by Valley Electric Association).

The projects south of Beatty along Highway 374 are called the Beatty Energy Center at 6,500 acres, SB Solar at 5,300 acres and Rigel Solar Project just south of these. These projects would directly impact the view-shed of Death Valley National Park which is essential to the tourism economy of Beatty, Nevada. The projects would disturb so much soil that they would cause extensive fugitive dust. This would also impact the view-shed and endanger the health of Beatty residents. One project would be very close to the famous ghost town of Rhyolite and surround first part of the popular backcountry drive called Titus Canyon in Death Valley National Park. Rhyolite saw over one million visitors in 2020.

The projects north of Beatty take up most of the Sarcobatus Flat, the region directly east of Death Valley National Park. They are called Sawtooth Solar at 10,000 acres, Bonnie Claire Solar at 8,200 acres and Chill Sun Solar at 26,000 acres. The Sarcobatus Flat area is located next to the Grapevine Mountains in the Nevada section of Death Valley National Park, the first National Park unit in Nevada added to the California side of the monument in 1936. It contains sweeping vistas, abundant Joshua tree forests, pronghorn antelope, and a network of historic roads and artifacts.

May, 2022 - Applications for utility-scale solar projects on public lands around the Beatty region. The applications are filed with both the Bureau of Land Management and the Public Utilities Commission, Nevada (PUCN):

Beatty Solar Energy Center: 800 megawatts (MW), 6,515 acres, 2.6 miles southwest of Beatty, south of Rhyolite in Amargosa Valley, by Boulevard Associates. PUCN 10291.pdf (state.nv.us)

SB Solar Project: 500 MW with Lithium-ion battery storage, 5,300 acres, in Amargosa valley south of Rhyolite 5 miles southwest of Beatty, by EDF Renewables Development Inc. PUCN 10809.pdf (state.nv.us)

Rigel Solar Project: 500 MW with Lithium-ion battery storage, 6,555 acres, 7.5 miles south south of Beatty, by EDF Renewables Development Inc. PUCN 15798.pdf (state.nv.us)

Sawtooth Solar Project: 1,000 MW, 10,000 acres, 12.3 miles north of town of Beatty, Sarcobatus Flat, by Boulevard Associates. PUCN 9100.pdf (state.nv.us)

Bonnie Claire Solar Project: 1,500 MW, 8,274 acres, 10 miles northwest of Beatty in Sarcobatus Flat, by Bonnie Claire Solar LLC. PUCN 15008.pdf (state.nv.us)

Chill Sun Solar Project: 2,250 MW with Lithium-ion battery storage, 26,300 acres (!), 14 miles north of Beatty in Sarcobatus Flat, by Naturgy Candela DEVCO LLC out of Madrid, Spain. PUCN 15464.pdf (state.nv.us)

Tarantula Canyon Energy Center: 6,500 acres in Crater Flat southeast of Beatty, by NextEra Energy.

Chill Sun Solar Project application in Sarcobatus Flat, along highway US 95.

May 2022 - A new application, Tarantula Canyon Energy Center, was just proposed southeast of Beatty in the remote Crater Flat--part of the recreational 4x4 route system being actively developed and enjoyed by local residents and visitors.

The approved Amargosa Valley Solar Energy Zone on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management south of Beatty, between the Amargosa River channel and US 95. Yet solar developers do not want to use this approved zone, and instead are seeking applications on public lands outside of thjese zones, called "Variance Lands," where competitive bidding is not required. This is pushing the solar land rush to areas right around Rhyolite and Beatty, close to existing and proposed substations. There is apparently no planning to integrate or balance exisiting local community economic plans into pushes for renewable energy development goals for these public lands.

Greenlink West Transmission Project Proposal

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and potential associated Amendments to the 2001 Carson City Consolidated Resource Management Plan (RMP), 1998 Las Vegas Field Office RMP, and the 1997 Tonopah RMP for the proposed electrical transmission facilities referred to as the Greenlink West Project. Nevada Power Company and Sierra Pacific Power Company, doing business as NV Energy (Proponent), are proposing to build the Greenlink West Project in Clark, Nye, Esmeralda, Mineral, Lyon, Storey, and Washoe counties in Nevada.

The proposed Greenlink West Project would be a 474-mile system of new 525-kilovolt (kV) and 345-kV overhead electric transmission lines and includes transmission and distribution lines, substations, microwave radio facilities, amplifier sites, access roads, and construction/material yards.


You may submit comments or resource information related to the project by any of the following methods:

Website: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2017391/510

Mail: Gregory L. Helseth, Branch Chief Renewable Energy, BLM Nevada State Office, Greenlink West Project, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89520

    • For further information and/or to have your name added to BLM's mailing list, please contact Rita Henderson, Public Affairs Specialist, BLM Nevada State Office, 1340 Financial Boulevard, Reno, NV 89520; phone (775) 461-6753; or email ritahenderson@blm.gov.