Solar Plant Nixed to Preserve Native American Artifacts


It’s not good news, but it represents an all-too-human failing, one we call NIMBYism (not-in-my-backyard). Even if a project is beneficial, offering jobs and clean energy, some people don’t want it becoming part of the view out their windows.

A step up from that is those individuals and groups who oppose projects on other grounds, chief among them that the project will hamper, alter or even destroy some landmark, life form or entire ecosystem.

This latter is true of the Calico solar thermal power plant project, but to an even greater extent. There, the problem approaches desecration, as an entire Native American tribe attempts to protect ancestral ground.

The result: Stirling Energy and Tessera Solar have abandoned the Calico project, with the former company facing executive decampment, the latter staff layoffs, and both feeling the impact of Southern California Edison canceling the power purchase agreement.

The whole Calico-down-the-tubes thing was likely precipitated by a judge’s ruling in favor of the 3,500-member Quechan tribe, which insists that the U.S. Department of the Interior (Bureau of Land Management) did not conduct an appropriate review of the project’s potential for destroying cultural artifacts. No one has mentioned grave sites, but I suppose it’s impossible to rule that out.

Rumor suggests that First Solar or NRG might step in to rescue the situation by changing solar thermal to solar photovoltaic, perhaps, but we at CalFinder liker to think we know a jinx when we see one.

It isn’t even about solar thermal hitting some downside, as witness BrightSource’s progress at Ivanpah. More like, we can move desert tortoises, fringe-toed lizards – we can even move foxtail cacti and human beings – but perhaps we shouldn’t try to move chindi (which are, in Navajo tradition, the ghosts left behind when we bury our loved ones).

Some things really are sacred.



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