Invenergy, a Chicago-based renewable energy company, has submitted a bid to build a $127 million solar project near Pleasant View to provide power for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc.
Montezuma County’s high altitude, flat lands, year-round sunny climate and access to the power grid are ideal conditions for generating solar power, said Invenergy renewable development analyst Quentin Stuart, of the Denver regional office.
“Tri-State has stated it is seeking a large solar project on the Western Slope by 2024,” he said. “We looked all over to find the best spot, and all signs point to Montezuma County.”
Selection of a winning bid by Tri-State is expected to be announced later this year.
The proposed project would generate 127 megawatts, enough to power 32,000 homes. The rows of solar panels would be on 1,100 acres of private land off Road BB, 2 miles west of Pleasant View. The site has good access to Tri-State’s transmission lines where the power will join the grid.
So far, 900 acres have been leased by Invenergy in anticipation of the project moving forward.
The project would generate 200 to 300 jobs during construction and two to four full-time positions for operations. Local construction contractors would be sought for portions the project, Stuart said.
Increased land value would also boost property tax revenues for local governments.
If Ivenergy’s Montezuma County project is chosen, there would be a permitting process with the county. Full build out would be anticipated by 2023.
Montezuma County has been actively courting solar companies. The county generated a map showing ideal locations based on sun, geography, and access to electrical substations and transmission lines.
“We are excited to see you come to our county, and we hope to see you again,” said Montezuma County Commissioner Keenan Ertel.
More than 100,000 fixed tilt panels would rotate to track the sun from east to west.
The solar power would be sold to Tri-State, which generates and sells electricity to 43 distribution cooperatives, including Empire Electric Association.
Empire is not involved in the building or financing of the solar project.
“It would be plugged into the Tri-State side of the meter,” Stuart said during a meeting with the Empire Electric Board. “We want to build as much support as we can in the community, be competitive on price and involve the community early on in the development process.”
Although Empire is not building the solar array, power from the project will be used locally, because the Empire system includes Tri-State lines.
Electrons go where there is demand for electrical load, Stuart said. That means the solar energy will help power nearby Kinder Morgan carbon-dioxide facilities, go out into the county, then onto the Front Range.
Also, because the project is Tri-State based, it does not run into Empire’s 5 percent cap on buying locally produced renewable energy, a limitation stipulated in Empire’s power contract with Tri-State.
Invenergy secures project funding through Wall Street investors, according to its executives.
The American company is the largest independent privately held developer of renewable energy projects, said Susan Innis, Invenergy’s senior manager for renewable development.
Invenergy develops, owns and operates a variety of different power plants, including seven in Colorado. Also in Colorado, it developed six wind projects totaling 1,000 megawatts,and operates a natural gas plant in Weld County.
Tri-State produces 32% of its electricity from large renewable energy projects. Under Gov. Jared Polis’ Bold Climate Action Plan, there is pressure to produce more renewable power. The plan proposes a road map for the state to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.