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Showing posts with the label Calico Solar

Calico Solar Canceled; Mojave Desert Habitat Spared

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K Road Solar this week decided to withdraw its application to bulldoze nearly six square miles of desert in the central Mojave Desert.  The company's Calico Solar project has haunted this important swath of desert habitat since 2007 when the project's previous owner first filed plans with the Bureau of Land Management.  The Calico Solar project was among the first in a wave of applications that have begun to fragment and industrialize otherwise intact habitat in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts.  Citizen conservationists and national environmental groups - including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and Natural Resources Defense Council - opposed the Calico project during environmental review and in court, but the BLM and California Energy Commission still seemed intent on permitting the project.

Word of the cancellation is an exceptional piece of good news as other energy developers continue to bulldoze desert in the Ivanpah Valley, along the Tehachapi mountains, near Jo…

Calico Solar Project Not Paying the Bills

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The owner of the stalled Calico Solar project is asking for a deferral on nearly 600,000 dollars in rent owed for reserving a large swath of public lands.  You might remember the long saga of the proposed Calico Solar project, which will destroy up to six square miles of desert habitat in the central Mojave Desert if California and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials give K Road Power the green light to convert the previously approved plans from solar thermal to photovoltaic technology.   The short version is that the initial project plans were approved in late 2010 despite environmental concerns, but the previous owner went bankrupt and sold the project to K Road Power, which decided to alter the plans enough to warrant further environmental review.

After K Road acquired the project, Southern California Edison withdrew its agreement to buy power from it, and now K Road is stymied by unspecified issues with transmission lines.  The project would require expensive new transmissio…

Calico Solar Project: Corporation Shows Contempt for Environmental Concerns

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Despite requests by an array of environmental groups to prevent destruction of critical desert habitat in the Pisgah Valley in the central Mojave Desert, the Department of Interior and K Road Power continue to move forward with plans to permit and build the Calico Solar project.  The project footprint has only been slightly redesigned, but would still destroy at least 6 square miles of desert habitat for photovoltaic solar panels -- the same technology that can be deployed on rooftops or already-disturbed lands.  The public lands targeted for the proposed project site host a diverse array of birds, reptiles, mammals, and plants, prompting concern from desert conservationists that the massive project will block wildlife connectivity across the central Mojave.

Modifications Miss the Point
The modified layout of the Calico Solar project provides a 158 acre "habitat connectivity" zone through the center of the project -- that is less than a quarter square mile of total habitat…

Cactus Cannot Outrun Bulldozers

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A cactus in bloom in the Pisgah Valley of the central Mojave Desert.  This cactus and the ecologically important desert habitat here would be destroyed by bulldozers if K Road Power begins construction of the Calico Solar power project.  The solar facility would destroy nearly 7 square miles of desert.  The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and NRDC have filed a legal challenge, suggesting the project should be built on already-disturbed lands.

Renewable Energy Industry Ignoring National Environmental Groups

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Solar and wind energy companies are seeing their "green" image slip away as they stake claim to large swaths of sensitive wildlife habitat in America's southwest, and balk at conservation groups calling for smarter siting decisions.  Although many in the grassroots conservation community wish the national environmental groups would be more vocal and consistent in their stand on responsible renewable energy standards, even the handful of examples where national groups do demand that renewable energy projects reduce impacts on our ecosystems, the renewable energy industry and even policymakers have resisted.

Calico Solar
The Calico Solar power project is an example of the renewable energy industry watching their "green" image melt away.  National environmental groups gave solar companies and the Federal government a three year opportunity to clean up their act and find a better place to build a 7 square mile solar project.  Neither listened, and now the Sierra C…

BLM Begins Supplemental Environmental Review for Calico Solar

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Despite opposition from the BNSF railroad, conservation groups, and countless concerned citizens, K Road Solar is still intent on building the Calico Solar power project in the central Mojave Desert.  But first they will need to complete a supplemental environmental impact analysis.  An environmental impact statement was actually completed last year and the project approved, but the project plans were sold to K Road Solar, which then modified them enough to warrant additional impact analysis.

Whether or not the Department of Interior approves the project will be a test for its supposed commitment to more judicious siting of large renewable energy projects on public lands.  Three groups -- Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the NRDC -- sent a notice to Interior in August warning against approving the project and pointing out deficiencies in last year's environmental review.  The groups argue that the project could be sited on lands nearby that are already-disturbed for agricul…

The Saga of the Suncatcher

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The California Energy Commission (CEC) on 3 October held a hearing to consider whether K Road Solar's planned Calico Solar project would have its permit revoked.  At issue is the 2010 decision by the CEC to permit the project even though Tessera Solar LLC -- the project developer at the time -- told the commission it planned to build the project with 26,000 Suncatchers, a solar technology that was owned by Stirling Energy Systems in the infant stages.  Well, the CEC permitted the project even though some people argued that the technology was unreliable and inefficient, and that the project would destroy essential desert habitat.

Keep in mind, as the CEC begins to review any application for a permit it should consider the following California regulation:
"To prevent any needless commitment of financial resources and regulatory effort prior to a determination of the basic acceptability of and need for the proposed facilities, and the suitability of proposed sites to accommodate …

Upcoming Hearing on Calico Solar Complaint

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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 reso…

Environmental Groups Warn Interior on Calico Solar Project

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Three environmental groups--the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and Natural Resources Defense Council--threatened to take legal action in Federal court against the Department of Interior's approval of the Calico solar power project, urging instead that it be built on already-disturbed lands.   The challenge represents the most significant step taken by these environmental groups to establish principles in what has otherwise been a rush by the Obama administration to industrialize public lands in the name of "green" energy. 

The nearly 7 square-mile Calico project would jeopardize key habitat in the central Mojave Desert for several imperiled species, including bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, burrowing owls, and the small-flowered androstephium.  The groups argue that although solar energy is necessary to reduce CO2 emissions, "utility-scale renewable energy sources and related transmission facilities on federal lands can threaten serious and widespread impacts o…

Solar Millennium Uncertain About Destructive Blythe Project

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According to Forbes, German firm Solar Millennium and its American front company - Solar Trust of America - have announced that they will not accept the 2.1 billion dollar Federal loan guarantee for the Blythe solar power project, and they are now going to use photovoltaic technology (the same panels used on rooftops!).  The company switched to photovoltaic (PV) technology from the antiquated solar trough design because PV is much more cost efficient.  However, the company's change in technology represents a significant departure from its original project application and may require additional environmental review.  The abrupt change in plans may have been the reason the company abandoned the Federal loan, which was granted based on its original solar trough plans.  The company will have to compete for private investments as the markets are taking an ugly turn.

Initial construction for the 11 square-mile Blythe solar project has already destroyed sites considered sacred by Native …

Calico Solar Right of Way In Jeopardy

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Last month I wrote about the Calico Solar power project because the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) granted Tessera Solar LLC permission to build a solar facility on pristine desert that Tessera never had the capacity to build in the first place, according to information put forward in legal proceedings.  Tessera Solar then sold its permission to build on 7 square miles of public land--called a "right-of-way" grant (ROW)--to a company called K Road Sun.  The BLM now considers the Calico Solar ROW to be "inoperative," and will not allow construction to proceed on the pristine desert until a new environmental analysis is completed, according to information provided by the BLM to the US District Court on 6 June.

K Road Sun modified Tessera Solar's original plans to include a different mix of solar technology, but still planned to use Tessera's "SunCatcher" dishes.  The SunCatcher technology is a major sticking point --if the SunCatchers cannot be mass…

BLM Lifts Hold on Ivanpah Construction but Hurdles Loom

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lifted a stop-work order on BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System last week, but a legal challenge still hovers over the solar project.  BLM halted work on most of the site in April after new estimates showed that the project could kill or displace hundreds of tortoises on the 5.6 square mile site and adjacent lands.  According to government documents:
"We anticipate that construction of the [Ivanpah] project site is likely to take, in the form of mortality or injury, between 405 and 1136 desert tortoises... We anticipate that the vast majority of these will be individuals of smaller size or desert tortoise eggs that are difficult to detect during clearance surveys and construction monitoring; therefore, we are unlikely to find carcasses of these individuals."
After reissuing the biological opinion, the BLM determined that despite the project tortoise deaths, the project will not "jeopardize" the threate…

Sierra Club Steadfast Against Destructive Calico Solar

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The Sierra Club asked the California Energy Commission (CEC) to halt its review of K Road Sun's revised proposal to build the Calico Solar power project, but the CEC dismissed the Club's challenge.  The project will destroy nearly 7 square miles of pristine desert on public land, and displace or kill many rare plant and wildlife species.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the CEC permitted the Calico Solar power project under a different owner last year, even though that company did not even have the financial or technical ability to build the project.  The new company, K Road Sun, is also of dubious pedigree, and is rushing the CEC for approval so that it can receive loans and grants from the taxpayer.
The Sierra Club told the The Sun newspaper:
"The Sierra Club is very much in favor of renewable energy but this is a bad location ...," adding that the area is "important habitat for the desert tortoise and the big horn sheep." The Sierra Club is not alone …

Have We Been Fooled by Calico Solar?

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This is the story of a solar power project that was approved by State and Federal Governments even though the energy company had no way of building it in the first place.  The representatives of the taxpayer are now being asked to turn a blind eye, once again.

Fool me once, shame on you....
Last fall the California Energy Commission (CEC) and Department of Interior approved Tessera Solar LLC's proposal to bulldoze 7 square-miles of public land for a solar power facility in the central Mojave Desert.  Both Washington and Sacramento acknowledged the significant environmental damage the project would cause to the pristine desert habitat, but rushed to approve it so Tessera Solar could qualify for over a billion dollars in taxpayer-backed stimulus funding.  The government approved the project on the basis that Tessera Solar would install thousands of SunCatcher dishes--an unproven and complicated piece of machinery.  

It turns out Tessera Solar may have misrepresented its ability to buil…

Measuring the Renewable Energy Land Grab

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One thousand square miles.  That's how much public land energy companies want to bulldoze over the next few years in California for massive solar and wind facilities, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) list of pending and approved wind testing and solar applications.   That is more than two times the size of Los Angeles, over four times the size of San Francisco, and more than 14 times the size of Washington D.C.  But what would 1,000 square miles of solar and wind projects get us? Will it stop climate change?  Not nearly.  The proposed projects would generate 13.7 gigawatts of energy.   That is less than a quarter of California's total energy generation capacity.  Building fields of glass and metal the size of the cities they are meant to power does not make sense. 

There is a lot of political momentum pushing these massive projects at the expense of investing in distributed generation (such as rooftop solar) which would spare our wildlands for future genera…

Leave Me Alone

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A desert iguana on the site of the proposed Calico Solar power project in the central Mojave Desert, peering back at the photographer from the shade of a creosote shrub.  The habitat on the site is pristine, and hosts desert tortoise, a rare desert flowering plant known as white-margined beardtongue, and the threatened Mojave fringe-toed lizard.

The Calico Solar power project would be built by K Road Power, pending re-evaluation of environmental impacts by the Bureau of Land Management and California Energy Commission due to modifications made to the proposal.

Sierra Club Lawsuit Tossed Out by Court; Calico Site in Jeopardy

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The California Supreme Court this month denied a petition by the Sierra Club that challenged the California Energy Commission's (CEC) inadequate environmental review for the Calico Solar power project.  A similar legal challenge by California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) was also thrown out by the court.  The Calico Solar power project was initially proposed by Tessera Solar LLC and approved by the CEC and Department of Interior last year.  Tessera Solar has since sold the project rights to K Road Power (aka K Road Solar), which is proposing to modify the 7.2 square mile project to use more photovoltaic panels to supplement Tessera Solar's disastrous SunCatchers.

The court decision is unwelcome news for concerned citizens who point to the Calico site's rich biodiversity and abundant desert tortoise population as a poor choice for solar development.  Many citizens and organizations also expressed concerns echoed in the Sierra Club's legal challenge that the CEC and …