First Solar, SunPower Reach Agreement With Environmental Groups On Solar Farms

The Sierra Club, the Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, Topaz Solar Farms LLC (a subsidiary of First Solar) and SunPower Corp. have reached a settlement regarding two solar photovoltaic power plant projects in development in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.

The agreement calls for the project developers to provide additional conservation protections for wildlife in the area of the 250 MW California Valley Solar Ranch project and the 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm.

‘The projects are located in the Carrizo Plain, a core recovery area for endangered San Joaquin kit fox and giant kangaroo rats,’ the parties said. ‘While both companies have previously agreed to significant commitments to protect and preserve species in this important habitat area and have received project approvals based on environmental reviews by various federal, state and local agencies, with this agreement SunPower and Topaz commit to provide a suite of additional environmental benefits to further increase protection of the area.’

Under the agreement, more than 9,000 acres will be added to the 17,000 acres of land required to be permanently protected and preserved under the permits, resulting in a total of approximately 26,000 acres, or about 40 square miles, of the Carrizo Plain receiving protection as a result of these projects.

Thirty miles of fencing will be removed from the area, allowing for greater wildlife movement around the projects. Additional beneficial enhancements will be made to the wildlife-friendly fencing around the solar system arrays.

Furthermore, no rodenticides will be used in the construction or operation of the projects, and the solar companies will help fund efforts to eliminate rodenticides on the Carrizo Plain and in other San Joaquin kit fox conservation areas.

Topaz and SunPower will make additional significant financial contributions to help San Luis Obispo County acquire lots in the largely undeveloped subdivision in the Carrizo Plain to restore for wildlife conservation.Â

California Gov. Jerry Brown, whose office had facilitated the discussions, hailed the signing of the agreement as another milestone in the development of the state's solar energy market.

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