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Calico Solar project will cover 4,000 acres of San Bernardino County with solar panels

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Calico Solar has become the fifth renewable energy project in the western United States federal officials have approved this month. Calico will eventually cover more than 4,000 acres of San Bernardino County desert in solar panels.

Texas-based Tessera Solar got the green light from the federal Interior Department this week. That’ll allow the firm to install the 4,600-acre solar plant in San Bernardino County near Barstow.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar describes Calico as “one of several projects in the pipeline that will help California and the nation build a renewable energy economy.” At full capacity, it could pump out enough juice to light up half-a-million homes.

Company officials had hoped to generate a lot more electricity with an 8,000-acre plant. But the Interior Department downsized Calico last month because of the enormous footprint it might leave on habitat that’s home to the endangered desert tortoise.

The Calico project still needs final approval from the California Energy Commission.