As many as 13 companies might be interested in building a solar farm in Montezuma County, Empire Electric Association representative Clint Rapier told county planning commissioners at their meeting Thursday.
A request for proposals has been issued for construction of a solar farm on a 30-acre site southeast of Totten Reservoir, Rapier said. Construction could start as early as April, with the goal to have the project completed by the end of the year, he said.
“We have been trying to get this to happen for a while,” County Planning Director LeeAnn Milligan said at the meeting. “I’m glad to see it coming to fruition.”
Rapier said Empire Electric owns the parcel and would enter into a lease with a third party company, which would build and manage the solar panels. Empire Electric would then purchase the power generated by the farm and provide it to co-op members. A Tri-State Electric transmission line runs through the property, he said.
Rapier said the plan is for a 4-megawatt solar farm system, which is comparable to the amount of power Empire Electric’s east Cortez substation handles.
“This will help us meet clean energy goals and move us in the right direction,” he said.
Solar panels could either be standard panels or a tracking system that moves to follow the sun, he said.
There are several options for Empire Electric’s potential power purchase agreement with a third party, Rapier said. The agreement could include a piece that would provide energy assistance for income-qualified Empire Electric customers.
It could also be a community solar arrangement, in which people who are unable to put a panel on the roof of their home could buy into the solar farm, he said. It could also be a straight power buyback, he added.
When asked how a solar farm development could generate money for Montezuma County, Milligan said the county would collect property tax revenue. The value of the land, which is vacant, would be increased with the installation of a solar farm, she said.
Rapier and Milligan said similar solar projects were in the works in Towaoc and Ignacio.
Montezuma County Commissioners have made solar energy investment a priority in the county and have created a map of the most promising areas for viable solar development in the area, Milligan said. County officials have put a lot of effort into solar possibilities, she said.
Rapier said it’s possible that other interested companies may build solar farms in other areas around the county in the future.
“Hopefully this gets the wheel rolling,” he said.