aps solar 2_8_57383

PRESCOTT (AP) — Yavapai County officials have approved an energy project on open ranchland near Prescott Valley that is expected to soon accommodate hundreds of acres of solar panels.

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors granted a conditional use permit on Wednesday allowing a solar-power facility to be built on land near the Arizona Downs racetrack, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) east of Prescott, The Daily Courier reported Thursday.

Yavapai County Development Services Director David Williams said permits for the project could be issued by summer. It is unclear when construction could start.

Project spokesman Rich Hamilton said the 600-acre (240 hectare) project is a partnership between Fain Land & Cattle Co., which owns the land, Utah-based rPlus Energies LLC and 1874 Solar.

Hamilton, who is with rPlus Energies, said construction is expected to employ about 200 people, and the operations would employ two to four people.

The supervisors also approved a waiver to the screen requirements to allow for a chain-link fence with slats, instead of a block wall, so it blends into the background a little more. Williams said it is likely the “least obtrusive” option for the site.

Some board members have raised concerns about how the fenced facility would affect the migration of antelope in the area. But in a 4-1 vote in favor of the project on Wednesday agreed that the companies should continue work with the state Game and Fish Department to mitigate the project's impact on wildlife.

Board Chairman Craig Brown cast the only vote against the motion, questioning if the developer was working on a mitigation plan.

“Have you had a wildlife impact study done in regards to the migration route for the antelope in that area?” Brown asked. “Have you had any discussions with Game and Fish?”

Hamilton responded that discussions were in the works and that some of the land is under the state so he would need to seek permits with the state.

“That is part of the process,” he said, stating that after approval more conversations would occur. “We are working with the agencies, but it’s been very preliminary at this point.”

He added: “We actually go out and count animals that are out there, and migration paths through the project will be identified. Then we are directed on what mitigation we need to take by the state agencies.”

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