Posts

Showing posts with the label Tessera Solar

Calico Solar Canceled; Mojave Desert Habitat Spared

Image
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

Image
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

Image
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…

The Saga of the Suncatcher

Image
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

Image
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

Image
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

Image
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

Image
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…

Have We Been Fooled by Calico Solar?

Image
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…

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

Image
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 …

On Green Jobs

The massive solar power projects that threaten to destroy public land throughout America's southwestern deserts are coated in economic promise.  The Obama administration included loan guarantees and grants as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act in order boost renewable energy generation, and Congress extended the Treasury Grant Program that funnels taxpayers' money to renewable energy companies.   In order to justify this money, the projects are promoted by politicians as "green" job creation engines, but the impact of these jobs is inflated and misleading. 

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger touted the need for green jobs in his recent opinion piece in the Atlantic Monthly, and large-scale solar projects on public land feature prominently in the President's energy blueprint.   The energy companies promise to turn around the recession if they are given unfettered access to public land and money.  Tessera Solar LLC CEO Robert Lukefahr complained …

Calico and Ridgecrest Solar Projects Haunt Pristine Desert

Image
Two different solar companies--Solar Millennium LLC and K Road Power--have officially revived proposals to build solar power projects on public land in the Mojave Desert.  Both projects have been heavily criticized by biologists and taxpayers (and some biologists that pay taxes) as a waste of money and public land.

Calico Solar Project  K Road Power (and its subsidiary K Road Solar) filed a petition with the California Energy Commission (CEC) on 22 March to modify the original Calico Solar power project, that was approved by the CEC last year.  The company that initially proposed and won approval for the Calico Solar power project--Tessera Solar LLC--could not afford to build the project, and sold the rights to public land to K Road Power.   That company is now proposing slight changes to the original proposal, calling for a mix of photovoltaic panels and the "Suncatcher" design.  Because K Road Solar is changing the original design, they should have to submit to a new environ…

Tessera Solar Trading Public Land and Money

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 mortgag…

Clock Ticking for Calico Solar Site

Image
K Road Power, the company that purchased the rights from Tessera Solar to build the proposed Calico Solar power project, recently told the Desert Dispatch that they could begin bulldozing the site as early as August.   The Calico site is one of several locations poorly chosen by energy companies for solar development, and is home to a high density population of desert tortoise and a pocket of rare plants found in only a few other spots in the world.  The Sierra Club filed a legal challenge against the State of California for approving the project on such ecologically important land.

K Road Power (and its subsidiary, K Road Solar), expect to change the original plan of development to use fewer of Tessera Solar's "Suncatcher" dishes, and more photovoltaic panels.  The change in technology almost certainly will necessitate a new environmental review because of differences in ground disturbance and water flow during rain storms. 

Although the Calico site layout was reduced i…

Sierra Club Lawsuit Targets Calico Solar Power Project

Image
The Sierra Club filed a legal challenge against California's approval of the Calico Solar power project, arguing that the California Energy Commission (CEC) rushed the environmental review without full consideration of the impacts on wildlife and without identifying adequate mitigation measures.   The petition--filed with the California Supreme Court on 30 December--represents the first legal challenge by a national environmental organization against a destructive solar facility, setting a precedent that utility-scale solar facilities should not be exempted from the same standards environmental organizations apply to other forms of energy -- wise use of public land and preservation of fragile ecosystems.  The petition lays out arguments that could easily apply to other solar projects proposed for pristine desert habitat in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts.

Tessera Solar LLC recently sold its development rights for the Calico site to K Road Solar LLC,  but the Sierra Club's acti…

Calico Solar Site Sold to K Road Solar LLC

Image
In a surprise move, Tessera Solar LLC sold its development rights on 7.2 square miles of pristine Mojave Desert habitat to K Road Solar LLC, according to an announcement on Tuesday.  Tessera Solar LLC's parent company, Ireland-based NTR, could not afford to build a solar project on the site after receiving approval from the Department of the Interior.  Tessera and NTR announced the sale on the same day that a lawsuit was filed against the Department of the Interior for improperly approving development on the Calico solar site, among 5 other projects.

The Calico solar power project site is home to at least 22 desert tortoises, a pocket of rare desert wildflowers known as white-margined beardtongue, Mojave fringe-toed lizards, and other special status species. 

K Road Solar LLC announced its intent to increase the energy yield on the site from 663 MW to 850 MW, using more photovoltaic panels instead of Stirling Engine technology proposed by Tessera.  The increase in yield could mean …

Judge Halts Tessera Solar Project

U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns granted an injunction this week that prevents Tessera Solar LLC from moving forward with its Imperial Valley Solar project in response to a lawsuit filed by the Quechan Tribe against the Department of the Interior.  The Imperial project would have destroyed over 9 square miles of Sonoran desert habitat that also held over 400 sites of cultural significance to the Quechan Tribe, including burial grounds.

Judge Burns--who was appointed to the bench by President Bush in 2003--chided the Department of the Interior  for "gliding" over its statutory responsibility to consult with the Quechan Tribal government before approving the project, which would be built on public land and would have been awarded taxpayer-backed financing.  Judge Burns' order underscored the shallow nature of what the Department presented as evidence of "consultations."  The order summarized letters that the Department sent to the Quechan Tribe, dismissing t…

California To Begin Charging For Sun Delivery

Image
In Governor Schwarzenegger's weekly radio address, he complained about the length of time required to permit the Sunrise Powerlink -- a two billion dollar transmission line that is intended to deliver solar energy from California's Imperial Valley to San Diego.  What he neglected to mention is that the Sunrise Powerlink will not carry energy from "green" sources, and it will cost the ratepayer more money.   Yes, utility-scale solar energy will reduce carbon emissions overall, but America's southwestern deserts--treasured for recreation, wildlife, tranquility, and our cultural heritage--will be given away to energy companies, along with taxpayers' money, ignoring a cheaper option.

Not So "Green"
The Governor boasted about his office's progress in approving nearly 5000 MW of renewable energy.  Unfortunately, most of the utility-scale projects that his office encouraged through the California Energy Commission (CEC) permitting process will bulldo…