A resident of Lakeside Manor Estates who fears he and his neighbors “are basically going to be in a solar oven” is voicing his concerns about the Pronghorn Solar Park proposed for the area just east of the Bighorn Solar project already under construction.
“I am a proponent of solar, in fact I have solar panels on my property, but this is a massive array,” said Alan Glasscock, 74, who has lived on property that borders the solar park site for the past 24 years. “We are basically going to be in a solar oven and instead of Lakeside Manor Estates we are going to be known as ‘solar panel-side’ manor estates.”
A total of about 70 Lakeside Manor properties line the northern border of the proposed solar park east of the city. Solar panels will extend 14 to 15 feet high when they are at their maximum tilt.
Canada-based Leeward Renewable Energy LLC proposes to build the 150-megawatt solar park on an 800-acre rangeland site which abuts the subdivision. Pronghorn Solar Park, if permitted by the Pueblo County Commission, would be located east of the Bighorn Solar project, a 300-megawatt solar farm being developed on EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel Mill property by Lightsource BP for Xcel Energy, which provides electricity to the mill.
There also are two other smaller existing solar farms and the Commanche 3 Power Station nearby. During a virtual community feedback meeting Wednesday, Kevin Adelman, project developer for Leeward, said the company does not yet have a commitment to sell the electricity to a specific utility but the site is attractive because Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy and Tri-State Generation all have infrastructure in the area.
During questioning, Adelman said there is a growing demand for renewable energy and securing a contract to sell the electricity to a provider is part of the development process. He said that would be done before the project is built.
The project will require Pueblo County Commission approval
Leeward staff are expected to apply for a 1041 permit from Pueblo County sometime this summer and a public hearing will be a part of the permitting process.
If approved, the solar farm would take nine to 18 months to build, likely starting in 2023, and would generate 400 construction jobs. The solar park likely would be operational by the end of 2023 or early 2024, Adelman said.
It would generate enough electricity to supply 36,900 homes per year, Adelman said.
It is expected to generate an estimated $760,000 in property tax revenue for Pueblo County during the first year of operation, Adelman said.
Glasscock voiced concerns about the 130 to 140 degrees of heat radiating off the solar panels, which will create what his research indicates is a photovoltaic heat island effect.
Adelman said the solar modules are thin and lightweight and dissipate the heat quickly so there will not be a heat island effect outside of the project’s border. Vegetation will be maintained onsite plus a vegetative border on the northern edge of the project — between solar panels and homes — will assist with heat dissipation.
The landscape barrier will consist of trees and shrubs. There also will be 50 feet of space between the solar farm and the back of residents’ property lines.
“The proposed landscape barrier — more than 2 miles long — would be difficult to maintain at best due to soil conditions and lack of water. Respondents simplified the growing conditions saying little water would be needed, but it is difficult to grow things here — it takes a lot of water,” Glasscock said.
“And by their estimate it would be seven years before being effective.”
Glasscock said many of his neighbors are on a rise above the proposed park so the trees will not block their view of the panels.
Wildlife and property value concerns raised by neighbors
Glasscock also has concerns about displacement of the pronghorn population. Both federal and state wildlife officials will be consulted about wildlife issues and game-friendly fencing will surround the site to promote wildlife movement around it, Adelman said.
Other neighbor concerns surround the potential for late summer stormwater washing herbicides or erosion contamination of the Bessemer Irrigation Ditch.
“We did a preliminary study of drainage and there is very limited impact of the drainage patterns,” said Bill Branca, vice president of development engineering for Leeward.
The company would have workers mow vegetation and those workers would only use herbicides if noxious weeds are present.
During the meeting, concerns also were raised about the solar park’s potential effect on neighborhood property values.
Adelman said the solar park should not impact property values. He cited a third-party appraisal which studied a dozen solar projects across the country which found, ”no measurable impact on property values of homes located near solar projects.”
Public comment continues to be collected by Leeward officials and can be emailed to email@example.com or a comment form can be submitted from the pronghornsolar.com website.
Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at twitter.com/tracywumps.