by Matie Belle Lakish

The deadline of February 25, set by Saguache County Commissioners for Tessera Solar to replenish their escrow account, has passed with no additional funds being provided. As a result, the second phase of the Public Hearing for their large controversial SunCatcher project, which had been set for March 10, has been postponed. However, the plug has not been pulled on the project. In a conversation with Commissioner Sam Pace on February 24, the County Commissioner representing the Crestone/Baca area said that he had received a call from Peter Lynch, who appeared to be representing NTR, the Irish parent company of Tessera Solar North America. That firm, NTR plc (public limited company), does not list Lynch as a member of their staff or governing board. Instead, Lynch appears to be a private consultant for solar investors. (See www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/u/peterlynch for his bio). In his conversation with Sam Pace he said that he would be doing some research on the project and planned to meet with Commissioners sometime in March. As a result, the Continuation of the Public Hearing will not take place in March, as anticipated, but may be continued in April.

The first portion of the Public Hearing was held on December 6, and had to be continued because many people who had signed up to make comments did not have time to do so. Tessera has not yet replenished the escrow account, which was to be used to pay for expenses related to evaluating Tessera’s SunCatcher proposal, but according to Lynch, the company plans to do so. Tessera owes the County $15,141.96 for past expenses, including fees to Russell Engineering for their work on the earlier portion of the Public Hearing, as well as other reports and studies that Russell Engineering did for the County. In addition, the County is asking $2000 to fund the Continuation of the Public Hearing.

As of the Commissioners’ meeting on February 15, Tessera Solar North America’s representative, Randy Ethridge had indicated in an email conversation with Commissioner Pace that Tessera is still interested in building the SunCatcher project in Saguache County, and Commissioners had given the firm until February 25 to replenish the escrow account. The last conversation with Ethridge suggested that Tessera was considering a project that would generate 117 megawatts of power, and would submit a new sound study to demonstrate that that project size would keep sound levels at legal limits at the property line.

However, in another conversation with Mestre Greve’s researcher, Saguache County’s chosen sound expert, Matt Jones suggested that a project size of 27 megawatts would be about the maximum that would keep sound levels  below legal levels at the border. There is a serious discrepancy between the two estimates, and that would have to be resolved, probably with new information or adjustments in technology, before the application could be approved.

Next steps in the process are not known at this time. If Tessera decides to move to a new technology, they will have to submit a new application. If they come back to the Commissioners with a reduced proposal and money for the escrow account, the Commissioners will set a new date for the Public Hearing, probably in April. Updates to this information will be posted on the Eagle’s website, www.crestoneeagle.com.