L.A. won't buy power from Mojave Desert solar plant, after all

A proposed solar power project near the preserve leaves environmentalists concerned that it will disrupt the historic habitat of native desert bighorn sheep. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

A proposed solar power project near the preserve leaves environmentalists concerned that it will disrupt the historic habitat of native desert bighorn sheep. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Via Los Angeles Times

The city of Los Angeles has dropped plans to buy electricity from a controversial solar plant proposed for the Mojave Desert, delivering a serious blow to the most environmentally sensitive renewable energy project in the state.

City officials said Thursday that the Soda Mountain Solar Project would be too damaging to bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and other wildlife near the site along Interstate 15, just south of Baker and less than a mile from the Mojave National Preserve.

The decision was made after a Department of Water and Power review found that other proposed renewable energy projects would charge the city less for electricity and would have fewer challenges in delivering the power to Los Angeles.

Bechtel Corp., developer of the plant, had hoped that Los Angeles would buy most of the power. Ron Tobler, project development manager for Bechtel, said the company is negotiating with other prospective customers for the electricity.

Analysts said those prospects are remote — and time is of the essence.

If the project does not get a power purchase agreement signed soon, "it will be extremely difficult for it to proceed with development," said Cory Honeyman, a senior solar analyst at the consulting firm GTM Research. That's largely because the window is closing on eligibility for a 30% federal tax credit for the project.

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