By Myrna Trauntvein
A 3,000 acre solar farm is being proposed on a location near the power plant just west of Mona and a public hearing will be held by the planning commission at their meeting in November.
The Juab County Planning Commission meets on the first Wednesday of each month in the Juab County Commission Chambers located at 160 North Main in Nephi Utah. The meetings begin at 7:30 p.m.
“The conditional use permit is completed, the fee has been paid and it has been submitted so the staff is asking for a public hearing,” said Glenn Greenhalgh, county planning commission director.
Ben Turner, project manager for renewable development with Invenergy, met with the Juab County Planning Commission on Wednesday evening to discuss the proposed Thirsty Valley Solar Energy Center proposed to be located next to Rocky Mountain Power’s Current Creek Plant.
Members of the planning commission are Quinton Kay, chairman, Dale Kenison, vice chairman, and members Shauntelle Watt and Shirl Nichols.
Kay excused himself as chair and asked that Kenison, vice chairman, serve in that capacity because Kay had a potential conflict of interest.
“We plan to generate 300 megawatts (MW),” said Turner.
The Currant Creek Plant generates 525-MW and is located on a 160-acre site in an area of the same name near Mona and was commissioned in 2005. The Thirsty Valley (named for the Native American meaning of Juab) Solar Energy Center will be located nearby.
The formula is that 1 MW can serve approximately 650 average residential homes for one hour.
“We have been working on this project for the last couple of years,” said Turner. “We have been working to get the permit.”
During that time the company had managed to lease or buy the land they need to build the solar farm.
“Ninety percent of the property is leased and we had to buy only a few smaller parcels,” said Turner. “Part of the land is SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration).”
“All those who are leasing their land to us will receive annual payments,” he said.
Turner said that Invenergy was North American’s largest privately held renewable energy company and that they had several projects in several different states. They develop wind power as well as solar energy.
He said he would be prepared to present at the public hearing. One request of the review committee, said Greenhalgh, was to make certain that the county-owned roads could be used.
“There are two access points that we will use,” said Turner.
One of those will be used the most but they will not have an effect on any of the county roads nor on their allowing access to BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or other lands that are located in the vicinity that require access via county roads.
Greenhalgh said that the county road department was working on a map showing roads in the area of the solar farm.
“Does it impact the roads?” asked Nichols.
“We will be happy to work with the road department,” said Turner. “We will be happy to have a discussion with the road department on who maintains the roads.”
The fence that the project has designed was of concern to the fire department, said Kenison. Turner was directed to make certain that, in case of wildfire, the fire department would have access to fight any fire.
Turner said that the company was also aware of easements for other uses. In addition, they had the needed easements for the project.
Another concern, said Kenison, was the snow and rain runoff from the property.
Turner said that the topography was such that there should not be much concern. Of course, the solar panels will shed moisture but the company will plant and maintain grass at the site and that will also help with runoff.
“They will have to retain any water on site,” said Greenhalgh.
The company will haul water that they might need to the site and will have tanks to hold the water. They will use a septic system for black water containment.
“The plant should last 35 years,” said Turner.
The public health department had also signed off on the request.
“Where are the buildings?” asked Nichols.
They had been planned for as close as possible to the substation, said Turner.
“We feed into that substation,” he said. “That is where we feed into the grid.”
In the last 10 years, the cost to install utility-scale solar projects has dropped by more than 70 percent and continues to fall.
Solar technology is simple and scalable and provides great flexibility for the future of the grid. As a daytime power source, solar helps meet electricity demand during peak demand hours.
“We held an open house in Mona on Thursday, September 27,” said Turner.
“As long as Invenergy meets all of the conditions set for a conditional use permit, they are allowed to proceed,” said Greenhalgh.
Conditional use permits (also called special use permits) are a planning tool. Conditional uses are land uses that because of their special nature may be suitable only in certain locations, or arranged or operated in a particular manner. Conditions are set by the planning commission that must be adhered to in order to get a permit.