Statement on Settlement Agreement between National Environmental Organizations and Solar Development Companies Regarding San Luis Obispo Solar Projects

published: 2011-08-10 15:41 | editor: | category: News

Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Center for Biological Diversity issued a statement with SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWRA, SPWRB) and Topaz Solar Farms, LLC, a subsidiary of First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR), on a settlement agreement regarding two solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant projects in development in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.

With regard to the agreement, California Governor Jerry Brown said, "This is another step in positioning California as the national leader in solar technology. These projects and California's overall renewable energy industry will help create hundreds of thousands of jobs."

The conservation organizations and solar development companies said:

"Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Topaz and SunPower have reached an agreement to provide additional conservation protections for the Carrizo Plain in eastern San Luis Obispo County, Calif., where SunPower's 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch and Topaz's 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm are planned for the generation of renewable solar power for delivery to California's grid. Governor Brown's office facilitated the discussions leading to this agreement and the organizations and companies appreciate the Governor's leadership in this matter.

The projects are located in the Carrizo Plain, a core recovery area for endangered San Joaquin kit fox and giant kangaroo rats. While both companies have previously agreed to significant commitments to protect and preserve species in this important habitat area and have received project approvals based on environmental reviews by various federal, state and local agencies, with this agreement SunPower and Topaz commit to provide a suite of additional environmental benefits to further increase protection of the area. This agreement provides for additional conservation for the remaining unprotected lands in the northern Carrizo Plain above and beyond those provided under existing local, state and federal permits.

The significant, additional environmental benefits under the agreement include:

  • More than 9,000 acres will be added to the 17,000 acres of land required to be permanently protected and preserved under the permits, resulting in a total of approximately 26,000 acres, or about 40 square miles, of the Carrizo Plain receiving protection as a result of these projects.
  • Thirty miles of fencing will be removed from the area, allowing for greater wildlife movement around the projects. Additional beneficial enhancements will be made to the wildlife-friendly fencing around the solar system arrays.
  • No rodenticides will be used in the construction or operation of the projects, and the solar companies will help fund efforts to eliminate rodenticides on the Carrizo Plain and in other San Joaquin kit fox conservation areas.
  • Topaz and SunPower will make additional significant financial contributions to help San Luis Obispo County acquire lots in the largely undeveloped subdivision in the Carrizo Plain to restore for wildlife conservation.

The parties negotiated in good faith and recognize that many challenges may be minimized or avoided in the future through earlier, more comprehensive communication between conservation groups and the solar companies with the goal to locate projects outside of important wildlife areas and sensitive natural resources.  Our organizations strongly support the development of renewable energy in California to reduce carbon emissions and transition away from fossil fuels, and believe that renewable energy projects must be located and designed in the most sustainable manner possible to ensure that projects move forward expeditiously and avoid, minimize, and mitigate their impacts on our native wildlife and natural landscapes."

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