Mesa County Commissioners approve proposed solar panel farm, leaving many landowners upset

Fire hazards, potential property depreciation, sunlight reflecting off the solar panels, and an impact on the town’s aesthetic were some issues raised.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 7:19 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - A solar farm proposal in Palisade was approved 2 to 1 by the Mesa County Commissioners, despite an uproar from Palisade residents.

The Courtroom was filled with residents from various parts of the county. Numerous individuals expressed their opposition to the measure, despite the project ultimately getting approved. County Commissioners, Cody Davis and Janet Rowland voted in favor of the measure while Bobbie Daniel voted against it.

This is not the first dispute regarding the property. In 2018, a different developer received permission to proceed, yet the project was never implemented. On this occasion, One Energy requested the court’s approval for the size of the project and the access road for the Orchard Mesa Solar Panel Facility.

The applications are proposing an expansion of the construction and operation of a solar panel facility from 2 megawatts to 5. This expansion would involve the installation of approximately 11,000 solar modules. The solar facility would be located on a 24-acre parcel in the 500 Block of 38 Road. It would encompass the existing 13-acre facility approved in 2018, as well as an additional 11 acres extending to the north. The solar equipment would have an approximate height of six to nine feet above the existing grade.

According to One Energy, the power generated by this facility will be used locally, and there is no need for any transmission equipment on site. The expected lifespan of this solar plant is between 30 to 50 years, with some variations.

Some residents have expressed concerns regarding this project. They raised issues such as fire hazards, potential property depreciation, and an impact on the town’s aesthetic. Despite these concerns, the power plant asserts that there is no other viable use for the land besides the solar facility.

Rahiannon Lawson, a property owner, had this to say about the passed proposal, “First, I’m really disappointed. There was a lot of opposition against this, there were well over 100 letters written by different people; Winery owners worried about tourism, you know..peach farmers, the town of Palisade, the Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Beauru, and even East Orchard Mesa Fireboard wrote a letter saying we don’t know how to fight these kinds of fires. All different perspectives went into this. I feel that the only landowner whose rights were taken into consideration is the landowner who has the project with Seattle.”

According to the applicants, there are about seven occupied properties within the view of the proposed project site. Those opposed to the solar panel facility told us at KKCO that they would be appealing.