The controversial Panoche Valley Solar Farm is one step closer to construction. Environmental groups sued to stop the solar project, located near Hollister, but the suit was rejected.
Duke Energy and San Francisco-based firm PV2 are planning to build the 399 megawatt solar farm in the mostly agricultural valley. But Shani Kleinhaus from the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society said the project threatens migrating birds and three endangered animals: the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, the San Joaquin kit fox and giant kangaroo rat.
“Environmental groups are supportive of clean energy projects and solar projects,” she said. “But we’re not in support of siting such projects without regard to endangered species and environmental damage.”
A state court of appeals rejected the suit, which claimed PV2 hadn’t pursued alternatives like putting the project somewhere else.
Tammie McGhee of Duke Energy, said their plan includes habitat preservation.
“The project is a 28,000 acre footprint. Only 3,000 of those acres will actually have solar panels on them,” she said. “The other 23,000 acres will be for conservation and habitat preservation.”
The companies still have to finish environmental studies and find a company to buy the energy. Kleinhaus says her group will stay involved and continue to opppose the plan.
If it does clear the hurdles, construction would begin in 2015.
The San Jose Mercury News has more on the history of the battle in the Panoche Valley.