Delta County Planning Commission reviewed and approved a Limited Use Permit for Garnet Mesa Solar, LLC for the construction of an 80 megawatt renewable energy facility in Delta County.

The joint venture between Guzman Energy and Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) calls for two separate ground-mounted solar power facilities constructed by Citra Power to be located at 2200 Road and 2100 Road/ G Road.

Delta County Planning Director Carl Holm presented the nearly 500-acre solar project to the planning commission on Nov. 17, 2021.

While the proposed renewable energy project is a Limited Use under any Delta County zoning designation and only requires administrative approval with no public hearing, Holm chose to bring the project before the planning commission.

“It was my discretion that I refer this matter to the planning commission to make a recommendation to the board of county commissioners. In my opinion a large commercial facility was not what we envisioned as an administrative type of review. This was something that we talked with the applicants about during the pre-application conference, to have a public hearing process,” he said during the presentation.

The pre-application conference on June 7, 2021 included Guzman Energy representatives (Citra Power and DMEA) and county staff from planning, engineering, economic development and road and bridge.

According to the applicant, the permit will be for 40 years at which time it will be determined to either continue or decommission and reclaim the land. During construction, an estimated 25 to 30 acre-feet of water will be used for dust control with construction taking 9 to 10 months.

During the construction phase an estimated 350 to 400 jobs would be generated for local civil contractors, electricians, laborers, and support services. During full operation, the project is expected to create 1 to 2 new full-time jobs for local site management personnel.

Construction costs are anticipated to fall between $75-80 million with approximately $20 million allocated for labor. In addition the project is projected to generate $10 million of property tax over 35 years.

During the planning meeting, Holm asked the commission to determine if the application complies with the 2021 Delta County Land Use Code and to either recommend approval, approval with conditions, or denial.

The proposed renewable energy project will be located on three parcels of land totaling approximately 472 acres in the Garnet Mesa area. The East Phase consisting of one 191 acre parcel in A-20 Zone is to be located west of 2200 Road with access north of Arroyo Road. The West Phase consists of two parcels in the A-20 zone and total approximately 280 acres. The proposed site will be located at the southwest corner of G Road and 2100 Road.

Holm told the commission that some of the key points to the project include site selection that would include an agricultural land management plan including grazing sheep at at least one project site. In addition, farmers would be allowed access to drainage areas on site and consideration would be given to biological/wetlands including utility easements, proper drainage, weed control and a wildlife access corridor.

On the operational side, Holm said the plan calls for noise control during the evening hours while panels are in a sleep mode and reclamation would take place if the property was decommissioned. Holm pointed out that the project site near 2200 Road will be built around a riparian area to avoid negative impacts.

“Most of the traffic would occur during construction,” Holm said. “Once the facility is built traffic would be very minimal, most of it is operated remotely. There would be some maintenance traffic to the sites.”

One project spokesperson conceded that there could be up to 450 vehicles accessing the sites during construction. He said the majority of the noise would take place during construction on the foundations.

According to planning staff, neighbors within half a mile were notified about the project. Staff received two letters in opposition as well as a petition signed by 57 individuals.

Concerns about the posted notifications at the project sites, construction nuisances, waste water disposal, aesthetics, property values, who pays for reclamation if the project is decommissioned, possible reflective light, the potential negative impacts on rural lifestyle and the potential loss of agricultural production and jobs were offered during public comment.

At the conclusion of public comment, the planning commission approved the Limited Use permit for the renewable solar energy project with conditions.

The project including the planning commission's recommendations will now move to the Delta County Board of County Commissioners for final approval or denial.

Lisa Young is a staff writer for the Delta County Independent. 

Load comments