The Garnet Mesa Solar Project is a proposed 80 megawatt (MW) solar agrivoltaic generating facility located approximately 5 miles east of Delta near the intersection of G Rd and 2100 Rd. Guzman Energy, Citra Power, and DMEA are working together to develop the array, which, if completed, would increase DMEA’s local power resources to 20% and provide enough electricity for approximately 18,000 homes in the Uncompahgre Valley. The proposed 80 MW array will sit on 383 acres and produce 194,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually.
GARNET MESA SOLAR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
In March 2022, the Delta County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted against permitting the Garnet Mesa Solar project, citing agricultural and irrigation concerns. We have improved our application, specifically addressing the agricultural and irrigation concerns.
The improved application went before the Delta County Planning Commission on July 13, 2022, at 5:30 p.m. at Delta County Roubideau Room, 320 W. 5th Street, Delta, CO. The planning commissioners voted unanimously to pass their recommendation of approval for the Garnet Mesa Solar project onto the Delta County BOCC.
The application will now go before the Delta County BOCC on August 16, 2022, at 560 Dodge St., Delta, CO at 1:00 p.m.
We have specifically addressed the agricultural and irrigation concerns raised by the community and commissioners. At the recommendation of local irrigation expert, Morales Engineering & Consulting, our plan now includes a robust irrigation system of sprinklers, gated pipes, and drip tubes, rather than traditional flood irrigation. In addition, Sperry Livestock Corporation will oversee farm operations for the project and manage sheep grazing throughout the fields. We expect more than 1,000 sheep to graze on the irrigated fields.
An extensive prospecting search was conducted to identify the best site for the project. Selecting a site for a solar project may appear straightforward, but multiple requirements must be met to successfully develop, permit, construct, and finance a project. Garnet Mesa Solar land met these stringent requirements and provides:
- Large contiguous parcels supporting a 350-400 acre project
- Appropriate zoning
- Compatible terrain with limited slopes
- Geotechnical compatibility
- Avoidance of environmental impacts
- Proximity to DMEA & Tri-State Transmission
There will be ground disturbance while the solar photovoltaic (PV) infrastructure and panels are being installed. During construction, all exposed dirt will be regularly wetted to mitigate dust. Water trucks will continually make rounds around the site to spray any dirt surfaces. This is a standard construction best practice and also a requirement under Colorado and EPA air quality control standards. The dust control will continue until all exposed dirt surfaces are vegetated and blowing dust is no longer an issue.
The Garnet Mesa Solar Project will consist of solar PV modules mounted on low-profile horizontal, single-axis trackers. These trackers offer increased energy production compared to fixed-tilt designs by dynamically tracking the sun’s position. The trackers’ movement is gradual throughout the day and creates no discernible noise or visual distraction. The preliminary project design includes Array Technologies (ATI) Duratrack single-axis trackers.
The Project team took to heart the concerns raised by all members of the community and County administration about the critical importance of preserving irrigated agricultural land. To that end, we have partnered with Morales Engineering & Consulting as our irrigation engineer. We have also consulted with local livestock agents and the CSU extension office to develop a plan to successfully maintain ground cover during the life of the project. We will use a combination of sprinkler systems mounted under the panels, gated pipes, and drip tubes as recommended by local experts. The proposed forced irrigation system and soil restoration plan being developed by Morales Engineering will actually increase the total viable agricultural land in the county.
Locally-owned Sperry Livestock Corporation will oversee farm operations for the project and manage sheep grazing throughout the fields. The project will provide interior fencing to allow for safe containment of the flock and prevent overgrazing in any individual area. There will also be watering locations and other necessary facilities to ensure the sheep remain safe and healthy while on the site. We expect more than 1,000 sheep to graze on the irrigated fields. The Sperry team will transport the sheep to and from the site and be responsible for managing the herd while on the project site.
An agrivoltaic project is a solar energy generation project that includes the simultaneous use of the land for agriculture production. It is beneficial because both solar panels and agriculture production can co-exist. The Garnet Mesa Solar project is a prime example of agrivoltaics because the array will produce 194,000 MWh of electricity while supporting a sheep herd of more than 1,000 head.
The final cost of the irrigation system will depend upon the final mixture of sprinklers, gated pipes, and drip. Sprinkler and drip deployment will be the most costly methods with gated pipes being slightly more economical. The decision on which irrigation method to deploy in different areas will be based on which method will produce the best end result, not by cost. Our latest estimates (as of June 2022) are currently landing around $1.5M. This number will continue to fluctuate until the final construction design is completed.
We know views are important, especially in our beautiful valley. Our plans include improving the current irrigation system for the land by using a combination of sprinklers, gated pipes, and drip tubes. The decision on which irrigation method to deploy in different areas will be based on which one will produce the best result. As a result, we have a robust landscaping plan that includes planting approximately 590 trees and 1,440 shrubs along the entire perimeter as a natural visual shield.
The project is expected to generate $13 million in property taxes over 15 years. Construction costs are anticipated to fall between $75-80 million, and approximately $20 million of this total is allocated for labor expenses.
During construction, we anticipate 350 to 400 construction jobs for local civil contractors, electricians, laborers, and support services. Staffing preference will be given to local individuals and businesses, which keeps a significant portion of investment within the community. Given the large number of staff required, we also anticipate the need to draw from outside the greater Delta community. During the work week, staff from outside the region typically stay in local hotels and RV parks near the project site, spurring additional investment into local businesses for lodging, food, and entertainment.
During operations, the project is expected to create one to two new full-time jobs for local site management personnel in addition to the sheep grazing and farm management jobs.
DMEA will directly purchase a portion of the energy produced by the Garnet Mesa Solar Array at a competitive price point. That price is locked in for the life of our power purchase agreement. Purchasing affordable energy is a major factor in DMEA’s ability to continue stabilizing members rates.
The array is owned by Garnet Mesa Solar, a wholly owned subsidiary of Guzman Energy. Citra Power, a subcontractor for Guzman Energy, is the project developer meaning they are responsible for all aspects of construction, from land prep to planting trees. DMEA will directly purchase a portion of the energy produced by the array and Guzman Energy will use the rest of the energy to serve their customers, including DMEA.