Ecological Assessment of a Proposed Solar Project

Ivanpah Valley watershed, southern Nevada and southeastern California, United States

About This Project

NatureServe Vista and Circuitscape were used to examine the cumulative effects of solar and other infrastructure features on habitat quality and loss, and to examine their potential impacts on habitat connectivity for the Mojave desert tortoise, both under current conditions and with the proposed solar farm alternatives.

Current modeled connectivity of desert tortoise habitat in the Ivanpah Valley watershed; orange and red areas are estimated to be more restrictive for tortoise movementThe image at right illustrates the current modeled connectivity of desert tortoise habitat in the Ivanpah Valley watershed along the Nevada/California border; orange and red areas are estimated to be more restrictive for tortoise movement.

Goal

The goal of this project was to provide additional characterization of the potential ecological effects of two alternatives for a solar energy project proposed in southern Nevada. Specific objectives include characterizing the general ecological health of the ecosystems of the Ivanpah Valley Watershed, providing a demographic summary of the Mojave desert tortoise for the watershed, and assessing the potential for habitat connectivity for desert tortoise within the watershed and beyond.

Significance

Environmental Impact Assessments can benefit from geospatial tools like NatureServe Vista. Vista can quickly provide mapped and quantitative cumulative effects assessments of multiple scenarios or alternatives, document inputs and assumptions, and support easy repeatability of these assessments.