New Castle scraps solar park site due to protests
July 25, 2014
NEW CASTLE — Protests over a proposed solar garden in the north part of the Castle Valley Ranch subdivision prompted the town to scrap the plans for the site and seek a location that is less populated.
"We're now looking at some privately owned parcels of property on the west end of town by Elk Creek Elementary," said Town Administrator Tom Baker. "We're not pursuing the Castle Valley Ranch site. It was too much and had no room for mitigation."
The town originally agreed to lease the land to the Clean Energy Collective, which planned to install 1,600 solar panels on a 4-plus acre site of town-owned open space. But the surrounding property owners vehemently objected, saying the solar array did not belong in a residential subdivision and voiced concerns that it would lower their property values.
"It's an industrial site that is intended to generate power," said Mike Kallal, whose home on North Painted Horse Circle abuts the property. "This will negatively affect our property values. I could break those panels with a baseball from my back porch. I believe there is a better site for it."
“I don’t want one person to lose even $5 on their home value.” — Mayor Bob Gordon
Mayor Bob Gordon said that after numerous phone calls, emails and people stopping him on the street opposing the park, he was convinced the town needed to rethink the location.
"I don't want one person to lose even $5 on their home value," Gordon said. "People are very much against it, and it's not that they're against solar power, but about it being in a residential neighborhood and the density. It's not a good location."
Town officials spent time Friday afternoon with members of Clean Energy Collective to try and determine what might be a better site.
"We're absolutely still interested in New Castle," said Todd Davidson, director of marketing for CEC. "We're looking at a number of locations. This one [in Castle Valley Ranch] came up very, very quickly. But it didn't work from a community and engineering standpoint."
The parcels being considered must be at least 4 acres to accommodate the minimum 500-kilowatt requirement by Xcel Energy.
Greg Russi, a former longtime town councilor and a founding member of Garfield Clean Energy for the Region (CLEER), has been very involved in the idea for a solar park in New Castle.
"Is this a power plant?" Russi asked rhetorically. "Yes, it is. It's a non-polluting, non-carbon emitting, non-noise emitting use of cutting edge technology to provide power without pollution."
CEC hopes to have a potential site lined up as soon as possible — one that is acceptable for their needs and the New Castle community.
"We have to work together on an appropriate place," said Michelle Zimmerman, land manager for CEC. "We have to have the town and the citizens all on board."
A meeting to discuss a potential solar garden in New Castle is still scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the New Castle Community Center. The meeting is for informational purposes only and will not address any particular site.
For more information, call New Castle Town Hall at 984-2311.