K Road Power Pulls Plug On Calico Solar Project

Despite President Obama's recent call for more solar on public lands, developer K Road Power has ended its effort to build a 618 MW photovoltaic plant on federally administered land in California's Mojave Desert. The beleaguered Calico Solar Project has been beset by lawsuits from environmental groups, difficulties in securing a purchase power agreement (PPA), a radical redesign and changes in ownership over the years.

K Road Calico LLC submitted a letter to the California Energy Commission (CEC) dated June 20 requesting that its license to build the facility be withdrawn no later than June 30. A portion of the letter reads: ‘Due to changed market conditions, we will not be able to move this project forward, either as licensed or as proposed to be amended.’

In May 2009, the CEC had given the nod to Tessera Solar, a development company of Stirling Energy Systems, to launch the Calico project as a CSP facility consisting of up to 34,000 of Stirling's SunCatcher dishes on 8,200 acres in the desert. The project quickly became a magnet for protests and eventually lawsuits from environmental groups.

In December 2010, utility Southern California Edison canceled its PPA with Tessera, which then sold the project to K Road Power. K Road Power promptly announced the first phases of the project would switch from CSP to PV technology. The developer also worked to reduce the footprint of the facility to 4,613 acres in order to lessen the impact on wildlife.

Lawsuits persisted. Even though the Calico project weathered a flurry of suits in 2011, a coalition of environmental groups filed a suit against the Department of the Interior in March 2012 over the project. That May, the California State Assembly passed legislation that would enable K Road Power to circumvent local authorities – which were largely sympathetic to the environmentalists – in advancing the approval process.

K Road Power has offered no specific reasons for terminating the Calico project, other than said market conditions.

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