The Mojave desert tortoise is a threatened species (not endangered) that can be impacted during the construction of solar projects in the Mojave desert. Extensive efforts are made to minimize the impact and deaths but some still occur.

Critics of solar power often cite the impact on Mojave desert tortoises as a reason to reduce support for solar. While the death of any single tortoise is regrettable, the reality is that mitigation efforts are generally successful and very few tortoises are actually harmed. In fact, for each gigawatt hour of solar energy from a Mojave Desert project kills a maximum of 0.03 tortoises, or 33 GWh of electricity generation results in 1 tortoise death.

Comparing this to the environmental impact of nuclear power, the same amount of electricity would result in more than 220 pounds of toxic nuclear waste.

Download the full spreadsheet here (not yet available – for now, download via the Excel spreadsheet above)

Additional research and articles on the impact of solar on desert tortoises

  • There are an estimated 200,000 tortoises in the Mojave Desert
    https://news.bloombergenvironment.com/environment-and-energy/massive-desert-solar-project-experiment-in-tortoise-survival
  • The solar farm projected that initially focused on the tortoise impact
    https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2012-mar-04-la-me-solar-tortoise-20120304-story.html
  • Another tortoise impact study, 547 per year and a maximum of 700, page 4-6
    https://www.westernwatersheds.org/ca/ivanpah/04-19-11-ISEGS-revised-BA.pdf
  • Making the case for why saving them is important
    https://defenders.org/blog/2019/09/tortoise-and-solar-panel
  • 1000+ turtles could die from a new farm
    https://thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/environment/477567-building-the-largest-solar-farm-in-the-us-would

Code: m106 TortDeath math xbMath