K Road bins massive Calico project

US solar developer K Road has binned plans for the controversial Calico project in California.

Over the past few years the embattled Calico scheme was transitioned from a purely concentrated solar power (CSP) based project to 100% PV, as well as being significantly shrunk in size amid concerns about its impact on the environment in the Mojave Desert.

New York-based K Road, an independent power producer backed by Barclays Capital, filed a letter dated 20 June to the California Energy Commission in which it requested that both the original project license and a later amendment to shift to PV be withdrawn and surrendered.

“Due to changed market conditions, we will not be able to move this project forward, either as licensed or as proposed to be amended,” K Road's letter reads.

Despite K Road's reference to market conditions, PV modules are significantly cheaper than when it purchased Calico in early 2011.

Calico was initially developed by CSP specialist Stirling Energy Systems (SES) as an 850MW project, having won a power purchase agreement with Southern California Edison in 2005. The project would be by far the world's CSP plant were it to have been built.

After languishing for several years, Calico gained momentum again in 2008 when Dublin-based NTR invested in SES and created a sister company, Tessera Solar, to develop projects using its CSP technology.

However, the economics of CSP subsequently came under heavy pressure from PV, and NTR’s financial problems made things worse.

After Calico’s PPA was rescinded the project was quickly offloaded to K Road.

K Road initially intended to build most of the project – already dwindled in size to 664MW – using PV modules, with a 100MW carve-out for SES’s SunCatcher dishes.

But last summer K Road moved to a pure PV design, while also shrinking the project's size by another 16%.

Among its many challenges, Calico has faced stiff opposition and law suits from environmental groups, including the pro-renewables Natural Resources Defense Council.

SunPower may be one of the companies hit by the collapse of Calico.

While K Road had not yet settled on which PV technology to use at Calico, the developer had suggested that it might employ SunPower’s Oasis system – the same technology it used at its 26MW McHenry project, due for completion in September.

K Road is due to kick off construction this month at a huge PV array on the Moapa River Indian Reservation near Las Vegas, with Swinterton Renewable Energy on board as EPC contractor.