Financing, legal woes block big
“The land on which the project is planned was set aside for conservation 30 years ago, Thane Somerville, a lawyer for the Quechan said during Monday’s hearing.”
SDG&E counting on production
By Onell R. Soto
Courtesy / Tessera Solar
Imperial Valley Solar by the numbers
213,000 to 531,000 — how many households it can power when the sun is shining.
900 — how many people will get jobs during constructon.
$840,000 — annual property taxes
$273 million — federal stimulus funds to be spent on the project.
6,360 acres — size of the project, about 10 square miles.
1.2 million acres — how much land
the Bureau of Land Management oversees in
A $2 billion project to cover 10 square miles of federally
owned desert land east of
“At this point, we don’t know when we can start construction,” Ella Foley Gannon, a lawyer for Imperial Valley Solar LLC, told a San Diego federal judge. San Diego Gas & Electric is counting on power from the 709-megawatt Imperial Valley Solar project to help it meet state requirements for green energy.
An Indian tribe, the Quechan near
Burns heard arguments Monday afternoon, and said he’d make a decision on Wednesday. The Irish-backed companies behind the project have spent $20 million so far, Gannon told the judge. They were hoping to get construction started before Dec. 31 to qualify for up to $600 million in federal grants, but that’s highly unlikely, she said.
They’re now hoping that the federal deadline for green energy stimulus funding is extended.
Unlike photovoltaic panels, which
convert the sun’s light into heat, the project is designed
around mirrored dishes concentrating the sun’s heat onto
“This lawsuit has certainly chilled the discussions,” Gannon said.
The land on which the project is planned was set aside for conservation 30 years ago, Thane Somerville, a lawyer for the Quechan said during Monday’s hearing.
Even though solar projects are allowed, development shouldn’t proceed in a way that harms natural and cultural resources, he told the judge.
“This project is simply not appropriate for the land,” he said.
The companies developing the solar farm and building the dishes to be placed there are owned by NTR, a money-losing Irish conglomerate.
Solar is the developer, while Stirling Energy
NTR also said that it plans a
“liquidity event” in the next two to three years. That’s
a financial term that could refer to an initial public offering, selling to a
larger company or liquidating assets. The company, with its roots as a
toll-road operator, invested heavily in
A report on industry website greentechmedia.com last week cited unnamed sources saying
that Tessera and
“We don’t discuss individual
staff-related actions,” spokeswoman Janette Coates
said. “I can confirm however, that as we transition out of the active
development stage now that the
She said the company is looking for someone to buy into the projects before construction starts.
“Tessera Solar is actively seeking equity for our Imperial Valley Solar and Calico Solar projects,” she said. “The Imperial Valley Solar and Calico Solar projects are construction-ready this year.”
Tom Budlong, a Sierra Club member who testified against the Imperial Valley project during a hearing this summer said money will be hard to find because the Stirling technology has been difficult to perfect despite 100 years of history.
“Large investors, who tend to look carefully at where they place their bets, get skeptical when they look deeply at the dish-Stirling prospects,” he said. “Even though the Imperial and Calico projects would be almost entirely government funded or loan-guaranteed, the fundamentals still bubble up to the surface.”
SDG&E has long cited the project as one that will supply renewable power across the Sunrise Powerlink, for which it broke ground last week. SDG&E spokesman Art Larson said the utility is still planning to get power from Imperial Valley Solar.
“We’re just hoping this is a minor setback,” Larson said. “We’ve always considered to project to be promising and beneficial to the region.”
SDG&E proposed investing up to
$600 million in a
“It’s too early to speculate,” he said.
Some critics of
He then pointed to gas-fired power
plants owned by SDG&E's sister company, Sempra Generation, in