Solar prospectors tend to be as secretive about their land as forty-niners were about the veins of gold they discovered. Most bids are placed by limited-liability corporations with opaque names that conceal their ownership. And no one has been as quick to move into the Mojave - or as tightlipped about it - as Solar Investments.
That entity, it turns out, is Goldman Sachs's (GS, Fortune 500) solar subsidiary. The investment bank's designs on the desert are a topic of intense interest and speculation. Goldman declined to comment. But here's what we know:
Solar Investments filed its first land claim in December 2006 and within a month had applied for more than 125,000 acres for power plants that would produce ten gigawatts of electricity. Many of the sites lie close to the transmission lines that connect the desert to coastal cities. (Goldman has also staked claims on 40,000 acres of the Nevada desert.) **
Nobody expects Goldman to begin operating solar plants. It will probably either partner with another developer or sell its limited-liability company (and its leases) outright. The firm has been making the rounds of solar developers. "The conversation's been pretty wide-ranging, primarily as an investor interested in financing deals," says one solar energy executive approached by Goldman. "But there's clearly an element of interest in our technology." Goldman has requested permission to install meteorological equipment on its sites and is evaluating "competing technologies, including solar dish systems, power towers, and large-scale photovoltaic arrays," according to a letter Goldman sent to the BLM in August 2007.
I wonder how many of our endangered species are in deeper trouble because of all the infringement of these massive Solar Farms upon their already limited habitat.
First Big Wind kills our birds, screws up their migration patterns and blights our beautiful natural scenery, then Big Hydro dams our natural rivers, kills our fish, destroys our river systems and creates massive lakes upon which man drives his oil-guzzling boats and watercraft.
And now Solar is land-grabbing and removing huge hunks of habitat. All for the profit of Big Money like Goldman-Ballsacks.