MARICOPA SUN SOLAR ENERGY COMPLEX
MARICOPA ORCHARDS – KERN COUNTY, CA
QK worked with Maricopa Orchards to conduct all studies required for the development of a 700 MW solar project on private lands without federal subsidies. QK conducted all required studies, coordinated and consulted with resource agency staff, provided all applications and plans for all project permits, and created the mitigation monitoring and reporting plan for the project. QK also developed management plans for the compensatory lands, which were also owned by Maricopa Orchards. Several unique and never before attempted solutions to agency concerns were developed including a “springing” conservation easement that was applied to solar lands and a phased approach to compensation and mitigation.
The proposed site for the energy complex was composed of 6,000 acres of undeveloped agricultural land that potentially harbored a wide variety of threatened, endangered, and protected species. The large project size, the broadly separated configuration of the project, and the close proximity of existing wildlife populations created the potential of the project to result in take of species, and affect a potential wildlife dispersal corridor. Impacts of the project needed to be identified and documented, avoidance and minimization measures developed, compensatory lands acquired, and permits from regulatory agencies acquired. Of primary concern was that the landowner, Maricopa Orchards, was not envisioned to be the developer, but rather properties would be pre-permitted for solar development, and then sold or leased to solar developing interests.
All project permits were approved, the environmental process completed, one 160 acre solar facility has been constructed, and nearly 80% of the land entitled for solar has now been sold, or is in escrow. An extremely low mitigation ratio was negotiated, based upon site-specific conditions, that resulted in a compensation ratio of approximately 0.5 acres preserved for each acre of solar developed, plus the conversion of solar lands to conservation lands once decommissioning of the solar sites is realized.