Calico Solar Right of Way In Jeopardy

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.

Prototype SunCatchers in Arizona in a photo provided by the CEC.  K Road Sun would have to procure thousands of these, but the provider is not clear about its ability to build them, and is currently facing financial difficulties.
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-produced, then the proposal to generate and sell energy from the site is hypothetical.

I cant blame the BLM for taking a more cautious approach.  BLM rushed to approve the project for Tessera Solar last year, and then watched as Tessera admitted that it could not build the SunCatchers and sold the ROW to another company.  Now K Road Sun is asking for a repeat of last year -- a speedy approval by Federal and State officials ignoring the environmental damage and the fact that SunCatcher technology poses significant hurdles to the viability of the project.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) is still attempting to accommodate the amended application despite continuing concerns about K Road Sun's ability to build the project.  

The Calico Solar power project should never have been approved in the first place.  The site is home to a thriving desert ecosystem, with dozens of endangered desert tortoises, a rare desert wildflower, and bighorn sheep.
A photo of desert blooms with much of the proposed project site in the background.  The creosote bush scrub habitat is home to a robust tortoise population, and one of the last remaining pockets of a rare desert plant known as the white-margined beardtongue.


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