Thursday, December 9, 2010

Of PIIGS, broken dreams, desert tortoises, and the saving of the Quechan’s ancestral home.


The PIIGS according to the world’s bond traders and the focus of the European Union’s
financial worries especially Greece and Ireland, recipients of bailout funds, all in a desperate
attempt to stave off economic disaster, circa 1929.

Ireland, home base and corporate headquarters for NTR, the conglomerate that owns controlling interests in Tessera Solar and Stirling Energy Systems, maker of the Stirling
Suncatcher, tens of thousands of which were to be placed in the Mojave Desert at the
Calico Solar plant and in Imperial County, on the ancestral homeland of the Quechan Indian
Tribe, which has filed suit in federal court to stop the project.

Calico has been the target recently of rumblings by the Sierra Club, something about a
possible environmental legal action being filed, so both projects were suddenly under a recent
litigation cloud- and now, out of the blue, both projects appear to be dead in the water.

What happened, you might ask?

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that this blogger suggested a few times that the capital markets might have a big say in whether or not these giant solar and wind boondoggles would be built. In this case, they have spoken and the answer is a resounding
no. Due to an inability to obtain financing in the initial stage, NTR has pulled the plug, in effect
walking away from their $100,000,000 investment in Stirling Engine Systems which
they had a controlling interest in
. Evidently both SES and Tessera have recently laid off
most of their employees and the projects, having no financing currently and with prospects of getting it by yearend virtually nonexistent, the projects are dead in the water.

I first heard about this at the Mojave Desert Blog earlier today and I commented that would it be possible that another company with financing could obtain these properties? Shawn commented
back that they might have to redo the applications or words to that effect(sorry my internet is down, cannot give the exact wording) but I did see on a tradegroup website that there was a
remote chance another company might resurrect the two projects, but really they are dead as
no company could now jump through all the required hoops at this late stage of the process.

So at least for a year or so, unless someone pulls a desert tortoise out of their hat, the desert is safe, at least in these areas. The Quechan’s homeland is saved from destruction and all the
plants and wildlife are safe at Calico for the next few years.

I want to say something here. I am sorry the folks got the layoff notices, in this era of hard times, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Hopefully, they will move on to other jobs, perhaps
even in rooftop solar. Having experience and skills, they should latch onto other jobs as quick
or quicker than others.

But I am very happy with this great news. After Ivanpah, the desert really needed this news.
We are talking about many square miles of prime habitat being saved from the bulldozers here, as well as the hopes, dreams and whole past of a sovereign people as well.

As mentioned here many times, this is a complicated situation, like chess being played on
many levels. What we opponents need is more time- time that can be used to lobby
and bureaucracies to consider the option of direct power generation, time for all the wonderful
advances being made in rooftop solar to percolate from being an idea to becoming a commercial product, time for the average person to be made aware of just how their environment would be irreparably harmed by the large scale industrialization of the desert,
time for them to be persuaded to at least find out the awe and majesty of the desert wilderness by being able to visit now before the damage is done- we just need more time!

And now we have it.

At 11:59 pm, the phone has rang, the warden has answered it, the guards have come into
the gas chamber and taken off the shackles, and we are breathing that clean, pure desert
air, it is time to thank our Maker for this blessing, for being able to live a bit longer, a bit
freer, with joy in our hearts, and courage and resolve flowing through our veins- we are
alive, the desert here still lives, the bighorns, the desert tortoises, the mojave ground squirrels, the fringe-toed lizards, the Gila Monsters, all of God’s creatures will live along
with us- it is a day to celebrate, but only a day or so…….

For all our joy, the opposite will be the case with the industrialists and their ilk. They will
regroup, I am almost certain that another company may take up the challenge of siting
on these areas, it wouldn’t make any sense to try to do so, especially considering the
impending regime change in Sacramento, possibly resulting in the ascendancy of direct
rooftop solar as the means to reach AB32’s goals- but I have learned at least one thing this year, and that is never to underestimate the opposition- so we will have to maintain vigilance
on behalf of the land and its’ inhabitants, lest another company tries to sneak in an application.

A personal note my friends. Ever since the bulldozers began blading at Ivanpah, I have
been depressed and have not had much to say. I guess as we used to say back home in
Georgia, I was walking around totin’ an ass-whupping. And I probably wasn’t much fun to be around either. I am still unhappy about Ivanpah, even more so now that I know that First Solar plans to build a multi-square mile solar facility 1/4 mile from, and on the same side of the road as Ivanpah SEGS. But I have learned that you take good news anyway and anytime that you can get it, and this is really great news here tonight.

What I am saying is- the dream lives on tonight as it has been given new life by this news.
The dream has not died, the Quechan’s dream of having their homeland safe and secure from being paved over lives on, and with this wonderful gift of time which we will use wisely, all of
us can work on, doing what each of us can do, in our own way, to make people aware, to
try to help the people understand what is at stake here, that these wild places can continue hopefully into perpetuity, being just that , the last wild and free places left, where man’s spirit
can soar with the eagles- forever.


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