CORTEZ JOURNAL 3-16-15 County Pitches Solar Development

Mar 16, 2015

County pitches solar development

Brochure touts land-use codes

James Dietrich

James Dietrich

Photo courtesy of EcoFlight Montezuma County is pitching its solar energy potential. This ariel photo shows a solar farm in the San Luis Valley near Alamosa.

A brochure explaining the advantages of investing in solar was created and distributed to renewable energy companies.

“We want them to know we are in a sweet spot for solar development due to our regular sunshine and access to transmission lines,” said James Dietrich, a county planner.

Montezuma County recently passed a resolution in support of renewable energy. According to the brochure, county land-use codes “provide an accelerated path for development of commercial scale solar generation as a use by right in all industrial and ag residential zoned parcels.”

More than 300 days of sunshine a year, a flat land base, affordable land prices, relaxed local regulatory environment, and abundant electrical infrastructure and capacity are listed as advantages for developing solar locally.

An arid climate and high elevation are also ideal conditions for solar-power generation. And the major West-Wide 368 Energy Corridor passes through Montezuma County.

In 2013, the Colorado legislature passed SB13-252, which required electric co-ops, including Empire, to produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020.

A detailed map of potential sites for solar energy development in the county was created. It shows ideal locations near substations and transmission lines.

“Besides this brochure and our map research, the county is not investing in a solar development project,” Dietrich said. “Rather we’re letting companies and landowners know that it is a business opportunity.”

A map of potential solar development is available for viewing in the county commission meeting room.

The county has been impressed by the successful solar projects in the San Luis Valley. One solar farm on 225 acres went online in 2012 and is one of the largest concentrating photovoltaic system in the world.