Close up solar panels with the sun setting in the background.

Garfield County green-lights large solar farm

Parachute facility will produce enough energy to power 4,392 homes annually

July 5, 2022

Garfield County has approved an application for a major impact land use change permit that paves the way for a large photovoltaic solar farm south of Parachute. AES High Mesa Solar is constructing a solar energy and battery storage power facility that is projected to produce 31,851 megawatt hours (MWh) each year, roughly enough to power 4,392 homes.

The up to 90-acre project site is poised to supply locally generated energy for the next 20 years, with an extension option available for an additional 15 years. The farm supports Holy Cross Energy’s (HCE) goal to obtain all its energy resources from renewable sources by 2030.

The project, which is located on County Road 300, is expected to create as many as 45 construction jobs and $5.6 million in wages during the building phase and provide roughly $1 million in property taxes for Garfield County. At the end of the project’s life, the farm will be decommissioned, and the land restored to its prior condition.

“There will be solar arrays, which will be running north-south throughout the site and will be tracking the sun east-west to increase production of the facility,” explained Garfield County Planner Philip Berry to the Board of County Commissioners.

Joshua Mayer, AES project developer, told the board that AES is a Fortune 500 power company and the only U.S.-based global power company of its size.
“We operate across four continents in more than a dozen countries,” he said. “We have the unique perspective of being a project developer and owner-operator that owns utilities in different locations. We really understand renewable energy, not just from the owner-operator perspective but also as a grid operator that needs to keep the lights on.”

The Boulder-based start-up began in 2009 and is now the second-largest renewable energy company in the U.S., Mayer added.

“We’ve been operating projects in Colorado for more than a decade now,” he said.

Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky wanted reassurances that residents would not be affected by glare coming off the panels. Mayer told the board that glare wouldn’t be an issue due to the location and angle of the panels, and that the potential had been addressed.

“All solar panels have anti-reflective tint to them,” he said. “The intent is to absorb as many photons as possible to convert them into energy. They really do serve their purpose. These panels, at their greatest tilt, are at 52 degrees. They are facing the sky.”

The application was approved unanimously, 3-0.

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