A solar energy project near Totten Lake, rearranged to avoid a nearby bald eagle’s nest, has been approved.
The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners issued a special use permit on Aug. 11 for OneEnergy Renewables to build the 2.2 megawatt project at 10574 County Road 29. The panels will move to follow the sun.
The power will be sold to Empire Electric Association and Tri-State Generation, and is enough to power 460 homes. Construction has begun.
An occupied bald eagle nest in a cottonwood grove north of the project forced a change in the layout of the panels, said OneEnergy representative Gavin Berg.
Panels were moved south to comply with a quarter-mile buffer zone required by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“We worked closely with CPW and the Corp of Engineers and shifted it outside the buffer zone of the eagle,” Berg said.
The new design was granted approval by the Army Corp of Engineers to install solar panel posts in a wetlands area, he said. The solar panels will be driven into the ground 6-8 feet, and the wetland grass must be preserved.
Some neighbors have opposed to the project, arguing the rural area with many homes is inappropriate for a large solar installation, and that it could impact property values and wildlife, including the eagles.
Mike Conne, who lives adjacent to the new solar farm, has been seen occasionally on Cortez’s Main Street with a sign that reads “Protect the Bald Eagles, Say No to Totten Lake Solar.”
During a public hearing, he said is not necessarily opposed to solar power, but feels there are better locations for the industrial use.
The commissioners have promoted the county as ideal for large solar power projects and have reached out to solar companies to consider building here.
In approving the OneEnergy project, they said it meets the standards of the land use code. The panels are being installed on land owned by Empire Electric.
The project covers 20 acres, and the solar panels will take up about 12 acres. An 8-foot-tall security fence will be installed.
On the south side, the panels will be a 50-foot setback from property lines where there are homes, officials said.