Project diagram

California Flats Solar would be located on nearly 2,700 acres of Jack Ranch, a 73,000-acre property acquired by Hearst Corporation in 1966.

The Western spadefoot toads and coast horned lizards might not speak up on their own behalf, but they're identified as species that could be harmed by a proposed 3,000-acre solar farm in South County

The draft environmental impact report for the proposed project, called California Flats, was released last week and details potential habitat damage and proposed strategies for mitigating negative impacts. 

It's part of the irony of the massive renewable energy project, which is projected to generate 280 megawatts of power: Construction and the panels themselves aren't conducive to habitat for critters. 

One potential impact: Bats might mistake solar panels for water, and try to drink them—bad news for a fast-flying creature that collides with a solar panel. 

Another: The American badger population on the site is likely to decrease, due to shading from the solar panels and disruption from construction.

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One alternative considered in the draft report is a smaller version, which would generate about half the electricity on a footprint about one-third smaller than proposed. 

The property, called Jack Ranch, is owned by Hearst Corporation, the same company that owns KSBW and other media outlets, as well as the ranchland around Hearst Castle extending west. 

This would be Monterey County's first utility-scale solar project. 

Public comment on the draft report is open through Sept. 22.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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