Solar Millennium Uncertain About Destructive Blythe Project

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 Americans, and wrecked desert ironwood trees that are hundreds of years old.  Now that Solar Millennium will be using PV technology, it adds insult to injury that these solar panels cannot be installed in our cities instead of on desert habitat and sacred sites.

Native Americans protest the destruction of sacred sites by Solar Millennium construction crews.  Photo by Basin and Range Watch.

Governor Jerry Brown attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Blythe solar project in June and stood alongside Solar Millennium executives that are under scrutiny in Germany for embezzlement.   This would not be the first time that shady solar companies leave Sacramento in the dust after the State bends over backward to permit their ecologically damaging projects.

Governor Brown with Solar Millennium executives. Photo by Office of Communications
The California Energy Commission is still figuring out how to re-permit the Calico Solar power project.  California approved the project last fall after a contentious environmental review, only to find out that the developer never had the capability or wherewithal to build the project in the first place.  That company sold the project plans to K Road Solar, which plans to use a mix of SunCatcher dishes and PV technology, but K Road still cannot prove that it can actually build the hundreds of SunCatcher dishes it is promising. The uncertainty prompted a legal complaint by BNSF railroad that the project developer committed perjury about its intentions.  BNSF has opposed the project since last year because the danger the project poses to a major rail artery that crosses the site.

Scandal, lies, and uncertainty.  It almost feels like we're back in California's gold rush days when prospectors were swindled by unscrupulous characters; a free-for-all on public lands that made a few people rich, but left most with empty pockets.   Leave the desert for future generations to enjoy solitude and open space, and put the solar panels on our rooftops.


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