Calico and Imperial Solar Projects in Comatose State

Dublin-based NTR has decided to hold off on the Calico and Imperial Solar power projects indefinitely.  NTR is the parent company for Tessera Solar LLC, which received approval from the California Energy Commission and Department of the Interior to build the two utility-scale solar projects--Calico and Imperial--on a combined total of over 19 square miles of public land.

According to the Irish Times, NTR did not have the financial resources available to move the projects forward, but could float stock at a later date that would bring the necessary investment to the company.  The article did not suggest a timeline for when they would reconsider moving forward with the two projects.

Citizens concerned about Tessera Solar LLC's business decisions pointed out that the Calico Solar power project would destroy prime desert tortoise habitat, killing or displacing at least 22 desert tortoises and destroying one of the few remaining populations of the rare white-margined beardtongue wildflower.   As of early December, the Sierra Club and California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) were considering taking legal action to stop the Calico project.

The Imperial Solar project was proposed to be built on a site that is home to the threatened flat-tailed horned lizard, and several landmarks of value to the Quechan Tribe.  The tribe filed a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior earlier in the fall, alleging that the Department did not heed the tribe's requests for a proper review of historical and cultural resources on the site before granting approval to Tessera Solar's project. 

Beyond the poor siting decisions by Tessera Solar LLC, the company has adopted a technology that is extremely noisy and probably requires more maintenance than other solar technologies.  The projects would have each hosted tens of thousands of giant "SunCatcher" dishes which track the sun during the day, and contain a "Stirling Engine." The engine is notorious for noise levels that could reach up to 75 decibels, which you can sample on a previous post.  Such levels of noise probably would drive away surrounding wildlife, eroding nearby habitat quality.

It's not clear if either Sierra Club or the Quechan Tribe will move forward with litigation against the project approvals, or if the company's decision to hold off on construction will make the purpose of legal action moot.    Stay tuned...


  1. This is fantastic news. But one unanswered question is whether they could turn their applications in progress to a better financed company?

  2. hey Bill, I think they would have to do another environmental review if a new company came along and changed the plan enough, such as using a new technology (such as PV or power tower). Let's hope most companies are smart enough to just find a better site to build on...Tessera has made bad business decisions from the start.

  3. The timing of the Tessera Solar news is really interesting, coming right before the groundbreaking for the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line. Powerlink opponents said all along that the Imperial Valley Solar Project was just a ruse to get the California Public Utilities Commission to approve the transmission line and that the Project would ultimately fail.

  4. Seems like we would have heard more about these two large projects being put on hold if it were true. I'm guessing the Irish Times is getting its projects confused. Tessera put two smaller projects on hold in the fall, one in Marfa, TX, the other in Phoenix, AZ.

    I've got an email in to the Irish Times reporter to check these facts.


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