Support wildlife, oppose solar facility with no local benefit – The Journal

La Plata County’s proposed Hesperus Solar review has been held until California-based Primergy corrects several shortcomings in applications for its 155-megawatt industrial-scale solar facility. Primergy must obtain county approval to build a 500,000-panel project on 1,920 acres containing a critical wildlife habitat, 10 miles southwest of Durango.

On January 4, county personnel filed the first part of a two-part determination of completeness, noting 113-certain deficiencies, that must be completed on Primergy’s application before review can proceed to obtain the required building permit.

In addition to the 500,000 panels, which will cover an area larger than the surface of Nighthorse Lake, Primergy proposes to build a 155-megawatt substation and lithium-ion battery storage facility in rural areas of farmland and upland vegetation in the Colorado Plateau. None of the locally generated power will be used.

The first part of defining the interrupt for completion requires more than one-sentence promises and seeks details of 1) why the interrupt needs the project; 2) interest to the county (other than speculative taxes); (3) efforts to identify alternative sites; (iv) why this is the best use of the 1,920 acres; (v) address impacts on populations and critical wildlife habitats; (6) emergency procedures for forest fires and other hazards; and (vii) the effects on water quality and quantity, and the aquifer feeding the Long Hollow Aquifer. See more in entry 1.4.2023, https://cityview.laplata.co.us/Planning/Status?planningId=14942

When the second part, undertaken by County Councilor ERO Resources, is complete, Primergy will have 60 days to “complete” its application. If Primergy fails to make the required corrections, no further county review will occur and the permit will not be issued. If corrections are acceptable, the application will go through a “content review” by county staff to determine if Hesperus Solar complies with all land use regulations. After a public hearing, the county commissioners will approve or deny the necessary permit.

Hesperus Solar should not be built on 1,920 acres, classified by the CPW as Critical Wildlife Habitat, major elk and deer migration areas, and winter range.

Other wild animals currently using the space include black bear, Gunnison’s prairie dog, bald and golden eagles, peregrine falcon, turkey, buta’s pocket gopher, Townsend’s big-eared bat, burrowing owls, felines, mountain lions, possibly lynxes, leopard frogs, and the southwest flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo during migration.

California-based Primergy has no local ties, will not create meaningful local jobs, and will add pressure to the local housing market and infrastructure with its 250 temporary employees within one year of construction. LPEA will not purchase any of the power generated. All power generated will be carried through tri-state generation and transmitted to areas outside southwest Colorado.

Solar energy development must be supported, when done responsibly. Building 500,000 solar panels, a substation, and a storage facility on traditional farmland and wildlife habitats, clearing vegetation in the Colorado Plateau and changing a rural residential area into an industrial park that is not responsible for sites.

Hesperus Solar should be placed on degraded or damaged land, such as areas of decommissioned coal-burning plants. Research shows that more of these lands exist to meet US and global needs for sustainable energy development.

Destruction of pristine environment should not happen for more environmental conservation efforts using alternative energy.

County residents should defend the county commissioners’ denial of 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 public hearings for the application, and express their support for wildlife and their opposition to the destruction of pristine lands without local benefit.

The county commissioners must reject the Primergy application, if it passes the review process.

Barry Spear, a retired attorney and resident of La Plata County, participates in the group StopHesperusSolar.

Leave a Comment