Tessera Solar LLC recently sold its rights to build the Imperial Valley Solar project on over 10 square miles of pristine desert to AES Solar. Tessera Solar received approval by the Federal government last year to build the solar facility on the vast tract of public land that also contains threatened species and hundreds of sites of cultural significance to the Quechan Tribe, but Tessera did not have the money to build the project. The Quechan tribe filed a lawsuit against the Federal government for approving the project without understanding the cultural resources that would be destroyed, and a judge ruled in December that the government likely failed to properly consult with the tribe, ordering a halt to any construction plans. AES Solar will not be able to build on the site until the case is resolved, which could take years.
Tessera Solar also sold its Calico Solar power project rights to K Road Power in December. In some ways, Tessera Solar's dealings resemble the mortgage derivatives that led to the collapse of markets in recent years, since Tessera Solar has been trading in the promise of developing on public land that it does not own in the hope of building facilities that will require taxpayer-backed financing to be successful. What is worse, both projects sold by Tessera to other companies are under judicial review, since the Sierra Club filed a legal challenge against California's approval of the Calico Solar power project.
Companies are making money from the distant prospect of destroying public land, using public money. This does not sound like a sustainable industry, and I hope we realize soon that our beautiful desert vistas, and rare plant and wildlife face the threat of unnecessary destruction at the whim of poor business decisions made by companies that depend on taxpayer life support. We can cut down our carbon emissions and improve energy independence by building solar on rooftops or already-disturbed land--we should not sacrifice our few remaining wild places.