Solar farm west of Silt gets Garfield County’s approval

Alex Zorn

Screen image from Microgrid Energy website.

Seeking a land-use change west of Silt, Microgrid Energy, a Denver-based company with commercial and industrial solar energy projects throughout the United States, presented the Peregrine Solar Energy System to the Garfield County commissioners on Monday.

The zoning change was approved unanimously 3-0.

Microgrid plans to turn approximately 6 acres on an overall tract of nearly 42 acres into a one-megawatt solar facility serving Xcel Energy customers in the county.

“Looks like you’ve done your homework, and it looks like a clean operation to me,” Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson said.

The facility will be located at 31145 Highway 6 and Highway 24, approximately one-eighth of a mile west of Silt. Microgrid Energy Project Development Manager Jon Fitzpatrick said the facility will have enough power to serve 175 to 200 homes annually.

He said that recommendations from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado River Fire Rescue have been added regarding wildlife and fire mitigation.

“CPW recommends marking the top strands of fence wire with flagging or other highly visible material to discourage deer and elk from jumping the fence,” Rifle District Wildlife Manager Brian Gray wrote in a letter sent to the commissioners. “Additionally, CPW recommends that raptor perch deterrents be installed on any above ground wiring that could potentially cause electrocution mortality to birds.”

The energy produced from the facility will be used by Xcel Energy, as part of its Community Solar program, according to information presented to the commissioners. Subscribers are already signed up from Carbondale, New Castle, Silt and DeBeque.

Some 3,000 solar modules will be mounted on single-axis tackers. The panels will follow the path of the sun throughout the day to maximize their efficiency: facing east in the morning, flat at noon and facing west in the afternoon.

“Carbondale has contracted with Microgrid Energy to purchase 200 kilowatts of electricity from their proposed 1 MW solar garden in Garfield County,” wrote Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington in a letter submitted to the county commissioners.

“The location of the proposed solar garden being in Garfield County was a major factor in town contracting with Microgrid,” Harrington added. “The town is supportive of developing both on-site solar and centralized solar gardens within our community and Garfield County.

Silt Planning and Zoning Commission Chairwoman Meredith Robinson said the town believes that “this type of energy production can only benefit the region,” and added that the town will be purchasing power from Microgrid.

“It is our hope that the Planning Commission, county commissioners and any opponents to this application will agree that the benefits to the region from the solar farm will far exceed any perceived or actual problems that may require mitigation,” DeBeque Town Administrator Lance Stewart wrote in a similar letter.

The application was already unanimously approved by Garfield County Planning Commission on Feb. 14, and forwarded its recommended conditions to the Board of County Commissioners.

“This project is consistent with the goals of Garfield County’s Comprehensive Plan to promote and encourage the development of renewable energy resources within the county,” Garfield County Public Health Environmental Specialist Morgan Hill wrote.

After getting approval from the county commissioners on Monday, Fitzpatrick said Microgrid will be applying for building and other necessary permits later in the spring with the hope to set up a construction schedule by the end of the summer.

Microgrid anticipates a construction time line of six to eight weeks. Fitzpatrick said he hopes the facility will be operational by October.

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