May 24, 2024
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Bright, but not as big: Solar projects could be downsized to protect wildlife


The two massive solar projects winding toward approval on San Luis Obispo County’s Carrizo Plain could end up generating 30 percent less energy than the 800 megawatts their corporate backers would prefer.

That is according to draft environmental impact reports circulating for the California Valley Solar Ranch, backed by San Jose-based SunPower Corp., and the Topaz Solar Farm, backed by Arizona-based First Solar. The original applications pegged California Valley at 250 megawatts and the Topaz installation at 550 megawatts.

But concerns arose over wildlife on the remote Carrizo Plain, which is the last swath of mostly undisturbed San Joaquin grassland habitat left in the state. To help protect animals such as the giant kangaroo rat and the San Joaquin kit fox, San Luis Obispo County planning department staff have recommended solar farms with smaller footprints and outputs of 175 megawatts and 400 megawatts.

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