Home New mexico economy County commissioners vote against solar permits

County commissioners vote against solar permits


William Heck, a representative from Cenergy Power, said he believed community solar projects could benefit the economy and residents of the area. He is seen April 5 during a meeting of the Chaves County Planning and Zoning Commission at the Chaves County Administrative Center. (Photo by Lisa Dunlap)

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A California-based company that had applied for two more permits for potential community solar projects has had its applications denied.

The Chaves County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 Thursday morning at the group meeting at the Chaves County Administrative Center against the two special use permit applications requested by landowners and Cenergy Power, or BAP Power Corp., based in Carlsbad, Calif.

In doing so, the commissioners were consistent with an earlier decision by the Chaves County Planning and Zoning Commission. Its members decided by a 5-0 vote on April 5 to reject permit applications after hearing from about seven area neighbors that they did not want 5-megawatt solar projects planned near their residences.

The reasons given by the commissioners, or “findings of fact”, included that a solar project is “not compatible with the surrounding residential area” and that neighbors had objected to it.

One of the projects had been planned for undeveloped farmland sometimes used for grazing at 3831 Cedarvale Road, which is owned by the Eastman Trust involving a brother and sister who do not live in the area. The other proposed site was to be on undeveloped farmland owned by a trust involving Leonard and Joanne Blach, who have their home nearby in the 1900 block of White Mill Road.

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William Heck, a Cenergy representative, had requested a 90-day postponement of Thursday’s public hearing to provide additional information and conduct more studies to address neighbors’ concerns, but commissioners voted 3-1 against that. T. Calder Ezzell Jr. cast the dissenting vote that would have allowed the hold.

In public comments at meetings and in letters to commissioners, neighbors said solar installations would be an “eye-sore”, could disrupt wildlife habitats, could hamper neighbors’ ability to sell their home or property to the future and could cause storm runoff. or other negative impacts on the nearby Spring River.

Commissioners Dara Dana and Will Cavin also said they have received calls from residents saying they oppose the plans.

“Cenergy Power has built a number of these in multiple locations,” Heck said, “and we believe we can create housing that is both supportive of Chaves County’s economy and acceptable to residents, given the weather. to do that.

Heck said fencing and vegetation pads could be added. The company could also carry out wildlife and soil studies to ensure the construction does not adversely affect the Spring River, he said, and the company would be willing to meet with residents at to discuss project plans and address concerns.

Earlier this year, Cenergy successfully secured a permit for a possible solar project. The company and landowners Ben and Valarie Thomas had their special use permit approved by the Roswell-Chaves County Offshore Zoning Commission on March 15. This permit would allow for a potential solar project on an area near the Roswell Relief Route not too far from US 285 and US 70 cloverleaf north of the city limits.

The New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission and a third-party administrator are expected to make decisions soon on which companies will be awarded community solar projects. The New Mexico Community Solar Law enacted in April 2021 makes projects possible in the state, and the PRC has worked over the past year to develop the regulations and rules governing the projects. Through 2024, the state will only allow 200 megawatts from community solar, or about 40 projects statewide since individual projects are capped at 5 megawatts. Only 45 megawatts, or about nine projects, will be licensed in that part of the state served by Southwestern Public Service Co, which operates as Xcel Energy.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by providing an alternative source of electricity to fossil fuels, community solar projects aim to allow local residents to benefit from solar energy production by subscribing to the projects. Subscribers will receive discounts or rebates on their electricity bills based on the number of shares in the project they purchase.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or to [email protected]