Solar farm proposal near Woody Creek resubmitted to Pitkin County
Aspen’s sanitation district and a private company resubmitted an application last week to build a solar farm near Woody Creek.
The application — which was not yet publicly available Wednesday — increases the amount of acreage the panels will cover, though that is the main difference between it and the initial application, according to a spokesperson from Renewable Energy Systems, the private company that would build and operate the farm.
The project is a partnership between Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District, RES and Holy Cross Energy, and would be constructed on a 55-acre parcel of land owned by the sanitation district southeast of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82. The site, located under the flight path for Aspen’s airport, was used by the district to treat biosolids from 1974 until the early 2000s.
RES is an international developer of green energy with headquarters in Broomfield.
RES and Aspen Consolidated first submitted the application a year ago, which called for RES to lease 33 of the 55 acres and install 18,000 solar panels that would track the sun as it moves across the sky. The five-megawatt project would feed into Holy Cross transmission lines through a half-mile connector line, and was to power between 600 and 1,000 homes, according to the original application.
In October, however, the county asked RES to resubmit the application under a different development process known as “special review,” according to a letter from assistant Pitkin County attorney Richard Neiley.
The amended application, submitted Friday, will be considered under a “more stringent set of project review standards,” according to an RES statement. The new application also asks to construct 18,000 solar panels and related infrastructure, but on 35 acres, which will generate the five megawatts for about 1,000 homes, the statement reads.
“Construction of the project will generate approximately $475,000 in tax revenues for Pitkin County over the contract life of the project, and will not have material impacts on local wildlife,” according to the statement. The previous application said airplanes wouldn’t be affected by glare from the panels.
The increased acreage was necessary to accommodate design changes mandated by the different development process, Conor Goodson, an RES spokesperson, said.
Holy Cross Energy prompted the project by asking for proposals that would increase the amount of renewable energy in its power mix.
Aspen Consolidated is one of the largest power users in the valley with as much as $20,000 a month in electricity bills generated by its treatment plant, Bruce Matherly, district manager, has said. It wants to invest $1.6 million in the project to help offset those costs.
The district would receive lease payments from RES and energy discounts from Holy Cross for the power generated by the farm, Matherly has said.
Matherly did not return a phone message seeking comment Wednesday.
The amended application will eventually make it to the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission, then will be considered by Pitkin County commissioners, Suzanne Wolff, assistant community development director, said in an email Tuesday.
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It’s hard to fight City Hall and even harder to fight well-funded neighbors who don’t want any development near them, a local man has realized. So he settled for less than what he and his partner bought the property for.