The California Energy Commission, which had been a little quiet of late after a big run of approving large scale solar projects, came back onto the clean energy radar late yesterday when it approved the 663.5-megawatt (MW) capacity Calico Solar Project in San Bernardino County. This is the seventh solar power plant licensed in the past two months by this state commission.
The Calico project, which was approved by federal officials as well on October 20th since it will reside on public lands, is being developed by Calico Solar, LLC, a subsidiary of Tessera Solar, on approximately 4,613 acres. It will generate enough energy to theoretically power up to 500,000 homes and is one of the larger solar projects to date approved.
The solar technology present at this project is referred to as solar dish Stirling systems, or “SunCatchers.” It is said each SunCatcher consists of a solar receiver heat exchanger and a closed-cycle, high-efficiency engine designed to convert solar power to rotary power, then driving an electrical generator to produce electricity.
As with some of the other solar projects before it, environmental adjustments were factored into the final project’s scope and size before approval. The project initially had been proposed as an 850-MW facility on 8,230 acres, but a variety of factors, such as impacts upon the habitat of creatures like desert tortoise and bighorn sheep, required the project be scaled down. The impact is now considered significantly less, though other issues still remain around topics like cultural resources, land use, and visual resources.
With the approval of the Calico facility in the Mojave Desert, the state energy commission has now approved 3,492.5 megawatts of renewable solar power in the California desert. Two other projects, the 500-MW Palen Solar Power Project and the 150-MW Rice Solar Energy Project, are still under review.
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