Developers propose $1.3 million drip system beneath solar panels in new application

JOANN KALENAK, DCCR BLOGGER — Mostly Garnet Mesa residents showed for DMEA-Guzman’s open house yesterday to speak directly to developers and ask questions concerning an application to build a 380-acre solar farm in the area. Guests were treated to sliders, bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers and other tasty morsels as they perused blow-ups outlining the project’s location and talked to informative and eager project representatives, including Alyssa Clemsen Roberts, DMEA CEO.

DMEA, Guzman Energy, and Citra (the project contractor) have been working to develop an 80-megawatt solar generation project on Garnet Mesa near Delta and, while the project was denied by Delta County Commissioners this past March, Guzman Energy has re-submitted its application with “substantive” changes according to County Planning Director Carl Holm.

The land — 472 acres in total — currently owned by Guzman Energy had previously been only partially flood-irrigated and used to graze a small herd of cattle. Guzman is now proposing an innovative drip (sprinkler) system that would be mounted underneath the solar panels at a cost of about $1.3 million. They also plan to graze some 1,000 sheep on the site, a proposal that was included in their first application.

The updated application is scheduled to be heard by the Delta County Planning Commission in the next two weeks whose recommendations will go before the County Commissioners in August.

In March, after two public hearings, the project was denied in a 2-to-1 vote by County Commissioners. Commissioners Mike Lane and Wendell Koontz denied Guzman’s original application for reasons many believe were wrongly derived because they fall outside the county’s Land Use Code conformation parameters. The Commissioners cited the removal of “prime ag land from production” and concern about current irrigation practices. In the original application, the plan included flood irrigation, as had been done in the past, and grazing livestock under the solar panels. The new application proposes significant and costly improvements to the irrigation system in an attempt to address these earlier objections.

Photo by Natasha Léger