New foe for US solar energy: the railroads

June 23, 2011 09:49


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Railroad company Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp has joined an unlikely coalition of environmentalists, American Indians and politicians who are opposing a massive solar energy project planned for California's Mojave Desert.

The railroad is sounding the alarm over what it says are potentially "catastrophic" consequences of a proposed 663.5 megawatt solar facility that would be so bright that the glare could temporarily blind train operators.

The Calico Solar project is expected to include both SunCatchers, 40-foot-high solar thermal dishes made of mirrors that resemble giant satellite receivers, and photovoltaic panels on a 4,613-acre site along a rail transportation corridor used by BNSF and Amtrak.

BNSF has filed multiple complaints with California regulators over the project, which was approved by the state last year but is undergoing a new round of hearings to approve the inclusion of photovoltaic panels on the site.

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