La Plata County review has halted the proposed Hesperus Solar until California-based Primergy corrects numerous application deficiencies for the 155-megawatt, industrial-scale solar facility. Primergy must receive county approval to build the 500,000-panel project on 1,920 acres containing Critical Wildlife Habitat, 10 miles southwest of Durango.
On January 4, county staff submitted part one of a two-part Determination of completeness, citing 113-something deficiencies, which must be completed in Primergy’s application for review remains for the required construction permit.
In addition to 500,000 panels, which would cover an area larger than the surface of Lake Nighthorse, Primergy proposes to build a 155-megawatt substation and a lithium-ion battery storage facility in the countryside of agricultural lands and high Colorado plateau vegetation. None of the generated energy would be used locally.
Part One of the County’s Completeness Determination requires more than one-sentence promises and seeks details for 1) why the county needs the project; 2) benefits for the province (besides speculative taxes); (3) efforts to identify alternative locations; (4) why this is the best use for the 1,920 acres; (5) addressing impacts to residents and critical wildlife habitat; (6) emergency procedures for wildfire and other hazards; and (7) effects on water quality and quantity, and the aquifer that feeds Long Hollow Reservoir. See more at entry 1.4.2023, https://cityview.laplata.co.us/Planning/Status?planningId=14942
When part two, undertaken by county consultant ERO Resources, is completed, Primergy will have 60 days to “complete” its application. If Primergy fails to make required corrections, no further county review will occur and the permit will not be issued. If the corrections are acceptable, the application will proceed to “content review” by county officials to determine whether Hesperus Solar complies with all land use regulations. After a public hearing, county commissioners will approve or deny the necessary permit.
Hesperus Solar should not be constructed on the 1,920 acres classified by CPW as Critical Wildlife Habitat, prime elk and deer migration areas, and winter range.
Other wildlife that currently use the area include black bear, Gunnison’s prairie dog, bald and golden eagles, peregrine falcon, turkey, Botta’s pocket gopher, Townsend’s big-eared bat, burrowing owls, bobcat, mountain lion and possibly lynx, leopard frogs, the Southwest willow catcher and yellow-billed cuckoo during migration.
California-based Primergy has no local ties, would not create meaningful local jobs, and would increase pressure on the local housing market and infrastructure with its 250 temporary employees in the one year of construction. LPEA will not buy any of the generated power. All power generated would be transferred through Tri-State Generation and Transmission to areas outside of southwest Colorado.
Development of solar energy should be supported, if done responsibly. Building 500,000 solar panels, a substation and a storage facility on traditional farmland and wildlife habitat, removing vegetation from the Colorado Plateau and turning the rural residential area into an industrial zone is not a responsible location.
Hesperus Solar must be located on degraded or damaged land, such as areas of decommissioned coal-burning plants. Research shows that more than enough of these countries exist to meet US and global needs for renewable energy development.
The destruction of pristine environment does not have to prevent further efforts to save the environment with alternative energy.
County residents should advocate that county commissioners deny the permit by submitting comments at https://www.co.laplata.co.us/services/community_development_services/planning/faq_-_primergy_solar.php .
County residents must attend the public hearings for the application, vote their support for wildlife and their opposition to the destruction of real estate for no local benefit.
The provincial commissioners must reject Primergy’s application if it makes it through the review process.
Barry Spear, a La Plata County resident and retired attorney, joins the group StopHesperusSolar.