Falling silicon prices drove developers of the Calico Solar project to abandon a promising, though commercially untested, solar technology in favor of photovoltaic in late 2010.
More recently, K Road Power LLC, the project’s developer, decided to fully convert its 663-megawatt project to photovoltaic (PV) after its supplier of concentrating solar dishes, Stirling Energy Systems Inc., went bankrupt last fall.
“We wanted to use PV for a majority of the site in large part because of the tried and true nature of PV,” said Dan O’Shea, managing director of the New York-based firm.
But the technology switch means K Road Power must submit a revised application to the Bureau of Land Management, which originally approved the project in 2010.
And without a buyer for its power — and a bank to front money for construction — the company is not sure when the project will break ground, O’Shea said.
The delay is not unique to Calico, which is among a handful of commercial-scale solar projects that have been permitted on public lands over the past three years but haven’t started construction. Others have been beset by bankruptcy, financing woes and, in cases including K Road Power, litigation.
Although the Obama administration has approved nearly a dozen solar projects representing more than 4,500 MW since coming to office, fewer than half the proposals have entered the construction phase, according to BLM data obtained by Greenwire.
Of the nine projects approved in 2010, fewer than a fourth of them, on a megawatt basis, have broken ground.
While the administration has taken significant steps to fast-track the permitting of renewable energy on public lands — approving roughly 6,500 MW of solar, wind and geothermal since coming to office — the post-permitting delays represent a significant hurdle to the president’s plan to transition away from fossil fuels.