Opponents of two proposed solar projects that include agricultural land in Montezuma County will have a community meeting April 12 from 6-8 p.m. at the Lewis Grange Community Hall at 20659 Road W in Lewis.
“We are concerned citizens providing information providing information on these larger solar projects,” said organizer Landon Wilson.
A flier states “help save local farmland in Montezuma County.”
Invenergy, a Chicago-based renewable energy company, proposes to build a 127-megawatt solar facility in Pleasant View off Road BB and to the south between Roads 11 and 15. The Boutique Solar Energy Project’s estimated cost is $127 million, according to a 2019 company estimate.
The electricity from the project would be enough to power 27,000 homes annually. It would be build on about 2,000 acres of noncontiguous private farm land.
Juwi Inc., of Boulder, proposes to construct a 140-megawatt solar facility in the Goodman Point area. The Coyote Gulch Solar project would be enough to power 48,000 homes. It would be built on 1,100 acres 3.5 miles west of Arriola, and cost over $100 million, according to company officials.
Both projects are in the preliminary planning stages and would require high-impact permit approvals from Montezuma County. Neither company has submitted an application for the projects, reported county planning director Don Haley.
The companies also need to secure power purchase agreements along with contracts to upload to Tri-State Generation and Transmission lines. Empire Electric Association is not involved in the projects.
Wilson said the meeting format is casual and will offer educational booths on solar projects.
Information will include the county application process, requirements of the land use code, wildlife impacts, agriculture impacts, environmental regulations, what solar panels are made of and where they are produced.
Attendees are encouraged to visit the various booths and discuss issues, Landon said. No speakers are planned, he said, and company officials were not invited, although they could attend. There will be a petition for people against the projects to sign.
Both projects must go through the high-impact permit application and public hearing process with the county, which has not yet occurred.
Wilson said opponents to the projects are not necessarily against solar, but feel that building them on agricultural land is not a good idea.
“All these big solar projects take up farm land where food is grown that feeds the world,” he said. Portions of the projects would be built on irrigated lands.
Large solar projects on private land can be divisive because some landowners agree to solar leases for needed income, while some neighbors object to the change in use and impacts to open space.
Solar leases have become an alternative revenue source, especially since extended drought has made farming more difficult to make a living.
Project supporters also tout the renewable energy, jobs, and economic benefits. Opponents cite loss of agriculture, altered viewsheds, noise, invasive weeds, prairie dog control and risk to property values.
In August Invenergy reported it had secured land leases with about 12 landowners for the Boutique Solar Project.
In 2015, Montezuma County passed a resolution adding solar farms as an allowable use in agricultural zones.