Flat-tailed horned lizard. The Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West is under construction in the heart of flat-tailed horned lizard habitat. Photo: Johnida Dockens / Flickr

By Chris Clarke  
12 March 2015

(KCET) – Work has halted on a solar power facility in Imperial County due to the possibility that a rare lizard on site may be listed as an endangered species by the state.

Construction halted Wednesday at the Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West, being built by Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar, in the wake of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's accepting a petition to list the flat-tailed horned lizard as Endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.

Any species being considered for listing under CalESA automatically gets the full protection of the law until its fate is determined, and that means contractors at the Tenaska site must now proceed as though the lizard is officially listed.

Construction will remain halted until Tenaska acquires permits from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The company says it expects that will happen next week.

Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center West, which would generate up to 150 megawatts of power, began construction in December 2014 on 1,100 acres of abandoned farmland west of El Centro. That's right in the heart of flat-tailed horned lizard habitat, and the lizards don't make it easy for construction workers to avoid killing them. Three inches long and well-camouflaged against the desert soil, the lizards' primary means of defense against predators is to freeze in place. That's not a particularly helpful strategy when the "predator" threatening you is actually a piece of earthmoving equipment. [more]

Work on Solar Project Halted to Protect Lizard


By Chris Clarke  
12 March 2015

(KCET) – A large solar facility proposed for a 1,629-acre site in San Benito County moved forward today, when the state commission responsible for managing utility rate issues approved the project's contract to sell power to Southern California Edison.

By a 4-1 vote Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a power purchase agreement under which the utility would buy all the power produced by the 247-megawatt Panoche Valley Solar Project.

That has environmental activists upset: Panoche Valley has some of the last remaining intact habitat for the federally Endangered species San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rat, and blunt nosed leopard lizard, as well as species of concern like tiger salamanders, burrowing owls, and golden eagles. [...]

Due to the valley's importance for wildlife, environmental activists have been working to oppose the facility since the original owner, Solargen, first proposed the project five years ago. Current owner PV2 Energy bought the project in 2011, bringing Duke Energy on as a major partner in 2012. Duke quietly backed almost completely out of the project sometime in 2014.

Environmental groups were quick to condemn the Commission's vote to approve the power purchase agreement.

"As California continues its remarkable development of clean energy, our state regulators must also learn from the mistakes made during the last wave of solar projects, which in some cases have caused significant, if unintended, environmental damage," said Bill Corcoran of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. [more]

Controversial San Benito County Solar Project Jumps Hurdle

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