COOLIDGE — One of a number of proposed solar farms in Pinal County is causing concern among nearby residents.
Orsted Energy, which is in the process of building the Eleven Mile Solar Center, has already received a conditional use permit but was back before the Coolidge Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday night to present its site map for 1,500 acres.
The commission unanimously decided to table the matter until its next meeting in October to allow the company the opportunity to communicate and work with neighbors that will be affected.
Residents spoke out against the solar project Wednesday night but realized it had already been approved with the CUP in May of 2019 when Coronel Energy was the one who was going to build the solar farm, before Orsted Energy took over the project.
Neighbors in the affected areas have seen surveyors and workers conducting soil testing at the sites.
Some of the neighbors’ concerns include dust control, irrigation, the growing of oleanders and decreasing property values due to the proximity of solar panels.
D.J. Worth, with the Texas Orsted office, said the proposed project is 300 megawatts, with Salt River Project being its main customer.
Worth said there would be tax revenue to the city, county, area schools and Central Arizona College.
Neighbor Peter Everhart, whose land borders Eleven Mile Corner and the county fairgrounds, said there are a lot of concerns from members of the community, and the company was unable to address almost all major concerns brought up outside of basic layouts and measurements.
The solar farm project would encompass four to five sites.
Everhart said what concerned him is the company was not able to answer questions at the meeting, as he had to speak three times to address them on various matters.
Orsted Energy has promised to have 300 construction jobs but was noncommittal on how many jobs there would be after construction.
Economic Development Director Gilbert Lopez, who said there would be a significant financial impact to the city through the project, said there would likely be few jobs once the solar farm center is complete.
Everhart thinks that since the solar panels would be so close to his property and others they would drive down property prices, partly because of the glare of the sun on the panels.
“It will wreck our home values,” he said. “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live close to a solar farm.”
The solar farm project would be between the main parts of Coolidge and Eloy, he said.
“No one in the community wants to be a part of it,” Everhart said, adding the only reason for the location is the nearby power station it would need to connect to.
Everhart contacted the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Arizona Game and Fish to find out if anything is being done improperly.
Lopez said Wednesday’s meeting with the commission was just for a site plan, adding that the commission decided it wanted more time for the company to meet with neighbors to answer questions.
He said two landowners own the property, pointing out that farmland without water is not conducive to planting crops. The two landowners requested to use their land for this project because they were out of water.
“It’s a use for the property,” Lopez said. “Without water, crops can’t be grown.”
Lopez said the city would receive a one-time construction sales tax on the value of the improvements, higher property taxes over time and permit fees, but did not know how much the city would receive through these fees. He did say it would be significant for the city.
Because the power is going to SRP, it would help stabilize the grid, he said.
Lopez also said Orsted Energy seems like a legitimate, well-known company that works internationally.
Everhart was not convinced, saying after driving around several solar farms in the area he doesn’t believe the owners are holding up their end of the agreements, resulting in huge eyesores for the surrounding communities.
Some of these shortfalls are egregious along with the continued flow of outside companies coming in, building and leaving a mess, he said.
Pinal County residents, he said, are forced to drive past these farms that look like the front yard of a foreclosed home.
Lopez still thinks the Eleven Mile Solar Center, after questions are addressed, will be beneficial.
Other solar projects planned in Pinal County include:
The Sonak Solar project would change 1,882 acres slated for moderate-low-density residential to green energy production and major open space southwest of Eloy. Landowner is Arnoldo B. Burruel and the applicant is Benjamin Conor Branch, Sonak Solar Project LLC, which hopes to be operating by the end of 2025.
Arizona City Solar would change 1,667 acres now planned for various residential densities to green energy production southwest of Arizona City. The site is flat and facilitates the project without significant grading, according to county planning staff. The applicant is Randy Schroeder, ENValue LLC, which hopes to be operating by the end of 2024.
Eloy Solar would change 1,251.7 acres planned for various residential densities, general commercial and general public facilities/services zoning to green energy production and general public facilities/services southeast of Eloy. The John and Melinda Donley Revocable Trust is the landowner. The agent is SWCA Environmental Consultants and the applicant is Anthony Pedroni, Boulevard Associates LLC, which hopes to be operating in 2023.