Controversial Solar Plant Finds New Owner, But Will It Find New Life?

The Calico Solar project, abandoned like a sinking ship by original planners Stirling Energy and Tessera Solar, has acquired a new owner.

The Calico project came up against a smallish band of Native Americans and lost (sounds like Custer’s battle all over again). The turning point was not an environmental icon like the fringe-toed lizard, but the fact that the Quechans considered the land the repository of their sacred history.

K Road Power, a company so new it is still building its website, has promised to put the first 750 megawatts (MW) of solar power into solar photovoltaic (PV) technology; that is, solar panels made either from crystalline solar cells or thin-film solar material, but most likely the latter based on costs.

Only 100 MW of Phase II will be developed into concentrating solar power, or CSP, via the use of the newest generation of SES SunCatchers (designed and built by former project owner Stirling Energy Systems).

According to William Kriegel, K Road founder and CEO, the switch – from all CSP to almost all PV with just a taste of CSP – will insure funding, reduce environmental impacts even further, and provide low-cost solar to help meet California’s renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, which mandates 33 percent of electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

Kriegel carefully avoided mentioning the one salient fact that has us concerned: will the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management need to reevaluate the project? And, if so, is PV that much of a step up, as far as the Quechans are concerned?

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