Calico Solar Decision Imminent; Evidentiary Hearings Exclude Respected Botanist

The California Energy Commission (CEC) stated during the early August evidentiary hearings for the Calico Solar power project that they planned to issue a decision on the project by the 24th of August.   As noted in previous posts,  the Calico Solar project would consume 8,230 acres of prime desert habitat, and kill dozens of endangered desert tortoise and Mojave Fringe-toed lizard, and probably disrupt a wildlife corridor.   The site would also impact loggerhead shrike, a nearby Golden Eagle, LeConte's thrasher, and several special status plants, such as the white-margined beardtongue, small flowered androstostephium, Utah vine milkweed, and foxtail cactus.  

Photo of the Calico Solar project site in the Mojave Desert, taken from the PWA report on the Calico Site hydrology and geomorphic qualities, submitted to the CEC on June 18th.
During the evidentiary hearings addressing biological resources, Tessera Solar (the company proposing to build the Calico Solar project on public land) prevailed in its efforts to bar Mr. Jim Andre--a notable desert botanist--from the hearings.  It was explained during the 04 August hearing that Mr. Jim Andre had been paid to instruct other site surveyors contracted by Tessera Solar to conduct a botany survey.  The surveyors needed Mr. Andre to share his expertise on how to spot a specific special status plant species--the white-margined beardtongue--with which they were not familiar.  Lawyers for Tessera Solar argued that this one-time job involved an as yet unproven confidentiality agreement.

From my perspective, Mr. Andre's role in the site survey--whether or not he was paid by Tessera Solar--should not have precluded him from testifying during the evidentiary hearings.  Mr. Andre's unique expertise benefits this country's understanding of its natural resources, and no single entity seeking his impartial expertise should be able to claim a monopoly.  Furthermore, Tessera Solar paid him to help survey public land for a project under review by State and Federal agencies.   Mr. Andre's--or any other scientist's--knowledge of what exists on public land is neither confidential nor should it be barred from the public record.  Our government owes us--the public--full access to this country's expertise so that we can accurately estimate the impacts of such large scale energy projects, and energy companies such as Tessera Solar should not be permitted to silence our few Mojave Desert science experts.  Unfortunately, the evidentiary hearings were deprived of his insight.

The two screenshots below are taken from the Revised Staff Assessment prepared by the CEC, and show the proposed Calico Solar site from the historic Route 66, and an altered image that shows what the site would look like with thousands of industrial mirrors that would carpet the desert almost all of the way to the distant Cady Mountains in the background.


  1. I visited the Calico Solar site in April of this year and was struck by the wide open beautiful vistas and the quiet. Vistas and quiet that will be eradicated by the tens of thousands of Stirling Suncatcher units, extremely loud and unreliable as well, totally unproven in a real world commercial application except for the tiny test site in Maricopa County, Arizona.

    The thought that this prime habitat is about to be paved over to put this JUNK up is an insult to ourselves and the environment that is almost too much to bear.

  2. It's a shame that they cannot find a better site. Perhaps they should test and refine the technology and get it to the point that people can put a suncatcher on their roof or in their backyard...not in our dwindling open space.

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