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Large-scale solar project proposed in Montezuma County

The large-scale Coyote Gulch Solar project is proposed in Montezuma County west of Arriola. (Courtesy Juwi Inc.)
Project would cover 1,100 acres; Tri-State agrees to buy power from Juwi Inc.

A 140-megawatt solar energy project being proposed in Montezuma County would be the largest in Southwest Colorado.

David Kimmet, of Boulder-based Juwi Inc., informed the county commissioners Tuesday of the company’s plan to construct the solar farm on 1,100 acres 3.5 miles west of Arriola in the Goodman Point area.

The Coyote Gulch Solar facility would upload directly onto Tri-State Generation and Transmission powerlines, and feed onto the regional grid.

The electricity generated would be enough to power 48,000 typical Colorado households.

“Juwi is a nationwide utility-scale solar energy developer,” Kimmet said. “We have been building projects across America for the past 14 years, and are excited for this opportunity in Montezuma County.”

The preliminary plan was introduced at the commissioner meeting as part of a pre-application conference with county officials. It must go through the planning and zoning process. An application is expected to be submitted in 2022, said Juwi project manager Bryan Lohoff.

The project will require a high impact and a special use permit. Neighbors will be notified by mail of the plan once it is submitted by the company, and there will be public hearings.

Juwi has voluntarily agreed to set back all infrastructure a minimum of 500 feet from non-participating project neighbor homes, according to preliminary plan documents.

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Tri-State has already signed a contract with Juwi to purchase all power generated by the Coyote Gulch solar project for a minimum of 15 years.

Coyote Gulch Solar would include 346,000 panels along and near County Roads 16, 17, 18, P, and S. The exact cost of the project has not yet been worked out, but it is more than $100 million, Lohoff said. The solar development has an estimated lifetime of 35 years.

If approved and constructed, the project would increase property taxes and revenues for the county, according to plan documents.

Total property tax revenue from the private parcels slated for development are currently $6,284 annually, or $219,923 over the 35 years.

The total property tax revenue generated by the private parcels with the Coyote Gulch Solar project installed is estimated to be $223,643 annually or $7.8 million over the 35-year life of the project.

A 140-megawatt solar project is proposed on private land east of Arriola in Montezuma County. It would be built on 1,100 acres and clustered in several different areas. A permit application is expected to be submitted to the planning department in 2022 by Juwi, Inc. (Courtesy Juwi, Inc.)

The solar panels would be clustered throughout different locations on about 10 private land parcels, and will be constructed all at one time.

Construction includes about 1.2 million feet of galvanized steel tubes, more than 58,000 driven steel posts, and 2.1 million feet of cable.

Seventeen miles of fencing would be installed around the solar panel areas. The fencing will be 8-foot, wildlife exclusionary type recommended by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

If approved, construction of the solar project would begin in 2023, and take 18 months. It will generate 300 full-time jobs at the peak of construction, Kimmet said.

The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners advised the company to keep in contact with neighbors regarding the project plans early and often.

The area proposed for Coyote Gulch is mostly dry land, and therefore will not take a significant amount of irrigated ground out of production, said Commissioner Joel Stevenson.

In recent years, the county has approved smaller solar farms in the 2-3 megawatt range, compared to the larger 140 megawatt development being proposed.

“This is our first experience with a project of this size,” said commissioner Kent Lindsay.

Juwi is also planning large-scale, 110-megawatt solar farm in Dolores County on about 800 acres northwest of Cahone and east of the Dolores River Canyon.

The Dolores Canyon project had a public hearing Tuesday in front of the Dolores County Commissioners.

Combined construction costs for Dolores Canyon and Coyote Gulch is $250 million, said Brad Nebergall, Tri-State senior vice president of energy management, during the June 17 Empire Electric Association annual board meeting.