Upcoming Hearing on Calico Solar Complaint

The California Energy Commission (CEC) on 3 October will hold a hearing to discuss a complaint by BNSF Railroad that Calico Solar LLC provided false statements during last year's permitting process, and sought approval from the CEC and Bureau of Land Management even though the company never had the ability to build the project in the first place.   BNSF is asking for the original approval for the project to be revoked, which would require the new owners of Calico Solar to complete a new approval process.  The new owners of the project are currently seeking bureaucratic shortcuts to rubber stamp modifications made to the Calico project so that it will meet the 31 December deadline to qualify for Federal subsidies.

The false statements made last year are representative of energy company speculation on public land, proposing solar projects that would destroy critical habitat or--in the case of BNSF--jeopardize rail operations.  The public, other companies, and non-profits expend resources to review and intervene in the permitting process for the destructive projects.  In the case of the Calico Solar power project, the original owners of Calico Solar LLC obtained CEC approval on the basis that they could build the project beginning in 2011.  But the project's plans were sold to K Road Solar because the original owners did not have the capability to build thousands of Suncatcher dishes, a complicated and problematic solar technology.

K Road Solar has modified the project to include more photovoltaic panels -- the same technology used for rooftop solar -- but also plans to also use Suncatcher dishes. K Road Solar is asking for an expedited permitting process using last year's faulty approval as a baseline.  BNSF and environmental groups argue that last year's approval should be revoked.

The CEC is only planning to conduct an incremental review of the modifications proposed by K Road Solar, although it asked K Road to consider a reduced footprint alternative during a 24 Augusts CEC conference.  The alternative layout requested by the CEC would be sited only south of the BNSF railroad tracks, negating some of BNSF's safety concerns, although the project would still destroy pristine desert and habitat for the threatened desert tortoise and Mojave fringe-toed lizard.

This Mojave fringe-toed lizard was photographed on the site of the proposed Calico Solar power project in a sandy wash.

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