Numerous studies done by assessors, real estate groups, and industry experts confirm that solar projects have no negative impacts on property values. Solar can even be beneficial because it is a quiet, passive and regenerative use of the land.
The project is working with the Morgan County Public Works department to ensure that impacts to public infrastructure are kept to a minimum and roads are adequately maintained. This will include upgrading certain bridges and, based on the interest of Public Works and community members, potentially paving portions of county roads adjacent to the project. A detailed independent Traffic Study is being performed and the results will be posted here when it is complete.
This will be subject to an agreement to be developed with Morgan County Public Works. In general, construction traffic will be limited to areas designated through a Road Use Agreement with Morgan County, as well as with schedules and penalties for violating the agreed-upon rules. Enforcement is likely to be a collaboration between the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and the project's general contractor.
There are no chemical or liquid discharges associated with the normal operation of the project other than water used for dust control during construction and panel cleaning during operation. In addition, the project will utilize industry-standard spill prevention, control and countermeasure plans to ensure no contamination of local soils or watersheds occurs.
Federal policy directs us to source equipment from the U.S. where possible, yet we are technology agnostic in terms of Country origin.
Electrons flow to the closest loads, and the electric grid is highly interconnected between different utility companies and providers. The power will flow to the nearest connected loads, including Morgan County and the rest of Colorado. Much like the Pawnee Generating Station, the solar project currently anticipates interconnecting to the Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo) transmission system which, according to PSCo, serves nearby communities including Weldona, Brush, Hillrose, Merino, Atwood, Sterling and Greeley.
The project will utilize solar mounting structures that are able to accommodate the natural contours of the site without significant grading, which will minimize impacts and mantain the natural landscape as much as possible. The site will not be leveled except in certain small areas representing a tiny fraction of the total site for the placement of major equipment such as inverters, storage and other electrical equipment. The vast majority of the site will utilize steel piles driven directly into the native soil.
Solar operations are a passive use of land and are significantly quieter than other potential land uses. During operations, the project equipment is not anticipated to produce noise that is perceptible at nearby residences. The primary sound is from the inverters, which run only during daylight hours and are rarely audible from more than 150 to 200 feet away, meaning they’re not audible at the solar facility’s fence line, much less at adjacent properties given the 500 foot setbacks included in the project site plan.
The primary fire suppression measure in the solar array areas will be vegetation management to control the amount of combustible material on site. There will be an Operations & Maintenance (O&M) plan that includes vegetation management requirements. The project will also work with the local fire districts to develop mitigation and response plans. In general, any response from local fire districts is not anticipated to include structure fire interventions inside the project fenceline beyond implementing containment measures to protect surrounding properties.
While some battery fires have occurred at other locations, there have been numerous advancements in technology and regulations that have made today’s batteries much safer, including a variety of preventative and monitoring tools, as well as a robust arsenal of built-in safeguards such as a fire suppression system, 24/7 monitoring, temperature sensors, gas detection, automatic ventilation, over-current protection and emergency shut-off panels. The project will comply with all local regulations and design the project in accordance with industry best practices to limit fire risks, and work with local fire agencies to create a mitigation and response plan. In general, if a fire does occur any response is expected to be limited to containment.
The solar equipment itself is generally not flammable. Given the nature of the equipment, if a brush or prarie fire is impacting the project site firefighting measures are likely to be limited to containment measures to protect adjoining lands and not involve significant volumes of water. The battery storage equipment is expected to have fire suppression equipment maintained on-site and integrated into the storage units.
During normal operation there is no risk of any chemical leakage from the batteries or PV site. Photovoltaic modules do not contain any liquid components. The battery, inverter and electrical equipment could include liquids for cooling such as ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) and non-toxic oils. The batteries contain a small amount of liquid electrolyte encapsulated in modules within larger overall enclosures. The risk of leaks from these systems is very low, and secondary containment will be utilized if indicated by local regulations and industry best practices.
In general, the project will conform with all County, State and Federal regulations related to spills, including development of a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan, and containment measures for any materials stored or used on site (e.g., oil stored inside electrical transformers).
The project will use approximately 250 acre feet of water during construction, and minimal water use of 5-10 acre feet per year during operations (equivalent to fewer than 15 typical Morgan County households). The project has an agreement with the landowners hosting the project to provide water, and it can also be trucked in as an alternative. Compared to other electricity generation technologies solar photovoltaics require substantially less water. For example, the Pawnee Power Plant in Morgan County consumes more water on average every single day than the solar project will consume in a year.
During construction, water trucks will be used on site and on the haul route to minimize dust. Native grasses and vegetation will be planted and maintained on the site during operations to minimize dust. Additionally, the operations team is keenly focused on minimizing dust to ensure optimal performance of the solar array during operations.
The project is in the Agricultural Zone. Solar and Battery Storage facilities are both approved Special Review Uses for the Agricultural Zone and are governed by specific regulations adopted by Morgan County for those technologies as memorialized in the County Zoning Regulations.
In general solar projects are best suited to less productive lands. The project has worked with its hosting landowners to identify lands with marginal agricultural value, with more than half of the lands identified in Morgan County having NRCS non-irrigated capability classifications of 6 or 7 (the two lowest ratings for cultivation potential).
The project has begun consultation with Wiggins Rural Fire Protection District. The project will be designed in accordance with all applicable requirements to support emergency access and the project will coordinate these designs with the local emergency services and fire districts. In general, 20 foot wide access roads to the substation and 16 foot wide roads within panel arrays are expected.
Solar modules will be no more than 12-15 foot high at max tilt, the substation will have taller equipment where the project is connected to the grid.
The modules themselves generally run 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit higher than ambient air temperature in sunny conditions, (similar to how black plastic may feel sitting in the sunlight). However, the temperature of the modules has a very limited impact on the surrounding environment.
There are EMF emissions from solar plant equipment (e.g., module strings and inverters), but they are no different than those that we are exposed to everyday from a variety of human-made and natural sources, including common household appliances and distribution lines. At the fenceline of a solar project, EMF emissions are comparable to ambient background levels, and much lower than many of the other sources we encounter on a daily basis.