The company that has resubmitted an application to Pitkin County government for approval to build an 18,000-panel solar farm just south of Woody Creek is stressing the point that the project would not be located in that community.
“I’d like to clarify that the project is located between the towns of Aspen and Woody Creek, near the north end of Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. It is not located in Woody Creek,” wrote Conor Goodson, development manager for Renewable Energy Systems, the global entity that’s partnering with Holy Cross Energy and the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District on the electricity-generation initiative.
Goodson responded via email Thursday to several questions posed by the Aspen Daily News on Wednesday following the company’s new filing.
“The site, located under the flight path for Aspen’s airport, was used by the [district] to treat biosolids for several decades. The site has been incorrectly identified elsewhere as ‘Woody Creek’ — that is not accurate,” Goodson said.
While the proposed 35-acre project site is not in Woody Creek — the location is about two miles from that community, southwest of Stevens Street off McLain Flats Road — the Woody Creek Caucus remains interested in the project details, a representative of that group said.
Valerie Braun, a member of the caucus planning committee, said the community organization would not comment on specific project elements until after it has reviewed the resubmitted application. She said the caucus and many other community organizations in the area continue to have concerns about the project’s environmental impacts.
“We were asking a lot of questions about the original application last year, and then they pulled it [from consideration],” Braun said Thursday.
RES submitted the application last year under the name Pitkin County Solar LLC. The application was withdrawn in November after the Pitkin County Attorney’s Office determined it was not appropriate for the “location and extent” review process the company had sought.
“The amended application addresses a more stringent set of project review standards and was submitted in response to Pitkin County’s requested change in process … to special use review,” RES says in a press release issued Wednesday.
“Location and extent” is the path typically taken by governmental entities seeking local endorsements of their projects by other entities within their jurisdictions.
Last fall, in a letter to RES, county attorney Richard Neiley III wrote that on its face, the project was “potentially entitled” to that type of review, the purpose of which is to determine whether any structure, public utility, road or other type of public or private project conforms with the county’s master plan.
However, he continued, state law “makes it clear that, in the case of privately owned, public utilities, submission to the Planning & Zoning Commission must come from the utility provider. Here, the application describes the project as one that will be owned by RES/Pitkin Solar and [the] application lists ACSD as the applicant, but not the owner of the project.”
Project details in the new application do not differ substantially from last year’s version, Goodson pointed out.
- The 5-megawatt power-generation facility would provide 1,000 homes with clean, renewable energy.
- RES got involved through a request for proposals issued by Holy Cross Energy, a regional nonprofit electricity cooperative headquartered in Glenwood Springs.
- The clean energy produced would offset roughly 8,750 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the first year alone — the equivalent of taking nearly 2,000 cars off the road for a year.
- The project directly contributes to Holy Cross’ renewable energy goals. “Once built, [it] will allow additional subscribers to purchase green energy through Holy Cross’ renewable energy purchase program.”
He added that the project site on the east side of the Roaring Fork River — visible from the Brush Creek Intercept Lot on the west side of the river — makes sense from a company and community perspective.
“For nearly three decades, we’ve helped communities transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, and we have a lot of experience in working on both straightforward and complex projects,” Goodson said.
“In the case of this particular parcel, we look most closely at a few things: How can we best minimize disruptions to the community? How can we ensure environmental protection and conservation efforts are in place? And, are we living up to our values to be strong partner?”
The project will generate an estimated $475,000 in tax revenue for Pitkin County, he said, and has a low potential for requiring county services. Therefore, it will be a “net positive to county funding,” Goodson wrote.
He also addressed concerns about the project’s impact on wildlife, echoing information that’s also included in the application.
“No wildlife concentration areas or big-game migration corridors have been identified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and no habitat for threatened or endangered species exists on the project area or in its immediate vicinity — a point reinforced by our own habitat assessment,” Goodson said.
He added that the company strives to be transparent, noting that RES held an open house last July to explain project details.
“Moving forward, we are committed to continuing to work with the community, as we have done since the inception of the project,” Goodson wrote.
Bryan Hannegan, president and CEO of Holy Cross Energy, said in a news release that the solar project is an important part of the co-op’s efforts to provide a cleaner, more resilient energy supply for the upper Roaring Fork Valley.
“We very much appreciate the efforts by RES to work with Pitkin County and the affected communities to ensure a more complete project review and to minimize any potential impacts from this important renewable energy project,” Hannegan said.
For more information, visit holycross.com/pitkin-county-solar.