Dublin-based NTR has decided to hold off on the Calico and Imperial Solar power projects indefinitely. NTR is the parent company for Tessera Solar LLC, which received approval from the California Energy Commission and Department of the Interior to build the two utility-scale solar projects--Calico and Imperial--on a combined total of over 19 square miles of public land.
According to the Irish Times, NTR did not have the financial resources available to move the projects forward, but could float stock at a later date that would bring the necessary investment to the company. The article did not suggest a timeline for when they would reconsider moving forward with the two projects.
Citizens concerned about Tessera Solar LLC's business decisions pointed out that the Calico Solar power project would destroy prime desert tortoise habitat, killing or displacing at least 22 desert tortoises and destroying one of the few remaining populations of the rare white-margined beardtongue wildflower. As of early December, the Sierra Club and California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) were considering taking legal action to stop the Calico project.
The Imperial Solar project was proposed to be built on a site that is home to the threatened flat-tailed horned lizard, and several landmarks of value to the Quechan Tribe. The tribe filed a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior earlier in the fall, alleging that the Department did not heed the tribe's requests for a proper review of historical and cultural resources on the site before granting approval to Tessera Solar's project.
Beyond the poor siting decisions by Tessera Solar LLC, the company has adopted a technology that is extremely noisy and probably requires more maintenance than other solar technologies. The projects would have each hosted tens of thousands of giant "SunCatcher" dishes which track the sun during the day, and contain a "Stirling Engine." The engine is notorious for noise levels that could reach up to 75 decibels, which you can sample on a previous post. Such levels of noise probably would drive away surrounding wildlife, eroding nearby habitat quality.
It's not clear if either Sierra Club or the Quechan Tribe will move forward with litigation against the project approvals, or if the company's decision to hold off on construction will make the purpose of legal action moot. Stay tuned...