Black Hollow Solar Project

PROJECT Description

The Black Hollow Solar Project (the Project) will be the first utility scale facility capable of generating up to 250 megawatts (MW) in Weld County, Colorado. The Project will be located on  private land, supporting and working alongside the region’s economic, farming, oil and gas, water and wildlife while advancing the state’s commitment to a low carbon future. 
 
Development activities completed to date have informed an iterative process which considers many factors in the location and design of the project and will continue through the summer, when the Project is looking to submit for a land use authorization permit. The Project will continue to work closely with the planning department and the broader stakeholder community for input and participation throughout the process. 
 
The energy produced from 150MWs will be sold directly to Platte River Power Authority (Platte River). Platte River’s 2020 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), represents the evolution of the utility sector and the desires of its owner communities and customers, and directly supports its core pillars of system reliability, environmental responsibility and financial sustainability. The Project was selected as part of a rigorous solicitation process; evaluated against bids from 22 companies, 174 Power Global (174PG), a Hanwha company, was awarded the contract with Platte River for the Project in 2020. 
 
This website has been set up to provide Project information, answer general questions on the project design, the development process, the sponsoring organizations and will be updated periodically to keep everyone apprised of status and progress.

Why The Black Hollow Solar Project?

The Project’s renewable energy will help strengthen the energy supply portfolio in Weld County.

Platte River relies on Weld County’s natural gas industry for combustion energy generation and supports businesses and job creation in the county.

The Project supports regional interest in deploying more renewable energy and helps the state and local communities achieve Colorado energy goals.

The Project will help direct and indirect economic benefits including school and fire district payments, landowner payments, a local construction and operations workforce, and local construction purchases of supplies and services, ranging from lodging and food to equipment.

The cost of solar power is now seen as cost-neutral or cheaper than other forms of power generation. The scale of the Project allows for additional cost savings that amount to more than half the cost of systems typically used in residential homes and businesses.

Supports private landowners’ stewardship of their property and supplements their income while allowing them to continue their current land uses.

The Project will be environmentally and socially responsible – avoiding sensitive areas, free from air and water pollution, setback from residential areas, and not resulting in hazardous waste.

The Project would improve regional air quality by decreasing the overall emissions of Platte River.

Map of Project Study Area

Within this study area, between 1,000 to 1,400 acres of panels will be installed in areas that avoid sensitive environmental habitats and will be considerate of local communities. The final location and layout will be developed based on an iterative design process, including consideration of all environmental and physical constraints, stakeholder feedback (nearby residents, communities and landowners) and local and national engineering and planning requirements, and Weld County’s permitting processes.

Project Benefits

Support agriculture and private property rights

Landowners support the Project because it supports stewardship of their properties and supplements their income. Many neighboring property owners have also leased their land for future solar uses.

Through community development, leasing private property for a limited term and supporting existing water infrastructure, the Project supports long-term agricultural uses.

Economic development

The Project will support economic stability through significant tax revenue, landowner payments, local construction and operations jobs and local purchases of supplies and services, ranging from lodging and food to equipment.

The Project helps diversify and strengthen Weld County’s energy leadership role in Colorado. It also helps achieve Weld County’s Comprehensive Plan goals and policies to support responsible energy that avoids irrigated agriculture and minimizes the impact on surrounding land and the existing surrounding land uses.

Even after accounting for the significant payment of tax revenue to Weld County and payments to landowners in Weld County, the Project will deliver some of the lowest-cost solar energy in the nation, which will help keep power costs low in the region; the Project’s scale provides additional cost advantages – less than half the cost of smaller systems typically used in residential homes and businesses.

Protect and utilize natural resources

Platte River Power Authority relies on Weld County’s natural gas industry for energy generation and supports businesses and job creation in the county.

The Project defends mineral rights in Weld County for future generations.

The Project supports regional interest in deploying more noncarbon energy resources and helps diversify energy resources in the region.

The Project will support the drive for greater diversity in the region’s energy mix.

Provide land use amenities

Through its grassroots outreach, the Project is working with partners to protect and improve agricultural, water infrastructure and recreational amenities for the community.

Safeguard environmental resources

The Project will avoid sensitive areas, maintain water quality, be considerate of residential areas and produce no hazardous waste.

TIMELINE

Black Hollow Solar Frequently Asked Questions

The Black Hollow Solar Project is a 150 megawatt (MW) to 250 MW photovoltaic solar project proposed for western Weld County between Fort Collins and Ault. The Project team has been studying land and working with interested property owners across a study area northeast of Black Hollow Reservoir (see map). Within this study area, between 1,000 to 1,400 acres of panels will be located in areas that avoid sensitive environmental habitats and will be considerate of local communities. The final location and layout will be developed based on an iterative design process, including consideration of all environmental and physical constraints, stakeholder feedback (nearby residents, communities and landowners), local and national engineering and planning requirements, and Weld County’s permitting processes. The project will operate for approximately 35 years.

The Project will be owned and operated by 174 Power Global (174PG) and will support Platte River’s core pillars to safely provide reliable, environmentally responsible and financially sustainable energy and services to its owner communities. Platte River’s 2018 Resource Diversification Policy recognizes the need to shift its energy mix options and the project supports Platte River’s Integrated Resource Plan by adding a noncarbon energy source and storage to meet its goals.

174 Power Global was formally established in 2017 as the U.S. development arm of Hanwha, Hanwha Energy USA Holding Corporation (d.b.a 174 Power Global, ‘174PG’), is based in Irvine, California, and currently has a portfolio of approximately 10 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV (photovoltaic) projects and 10GWh of Energy Storage projects under various stages of development, construction and operation. With deep expertise across the full spectrum of the project development cycle, 174PG works closely with landowners, local communities, financial investors and other partners to build highly productive, utility-scale solar power plants throughout North America. Since its formation in 2017, 174PG has signed nearly 2 GW of power purchase agreements and has more than 8 GW of additional projects in the development pipeline. The company was ranked as the 2018 number #1 solar project development company in the United States by Wood Mackenzie. 174PG is part of Hanwha Group, a Fortune Global 500 Company, and directly owned by Hanwha Energy which has developed a total of 4.3 GW solar projects globally. For more information, please visit: https://174powerglobal.com/

174 Power Global Corporation’s name was inspired by the 174 petawatts (PW) of energy the earth receives from the sun at any moment.

Platte River is a not-for-profit utility that safely generates and delivers reliable, environmentally responsible and financially sustainable energy and services to its owner communities of Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland in Colorado. Platte River’s generation portfolio includes coal, natural gas, hydro, wind and solar resources. Natural gas that fuels Platte River’s combustion turbines comes from the Denver-Julesburg basin, which includes Weld County. Platte River relies on combustion turbines to meet peak demand periods and to provide energy to other utilities throughout the year to ensure reliability. For more information, please visit: https://www.prpa.org/

An estimated 320 full-time workers will be on the job throughout the construction period, ranging from 150 to 450 workers during peak activity  during the 12 to 14-month construction period. A portion of the jobs for this project will be open to the local workforce who have the skills and experience from the oil and gas and construction industry. During the operation and maintenance of the facility, 8 to 10 more jobs are expected to be added.

Although difficult to quantify in advance of final design and contracting with the various suppliers and construction companies, construction of the Project will benefit local businesses through the purchase of supplies and services, and from hotel stays to food to equipment.

The Project will be compatible with oil and gas development and tangibly demonstrate the region’s commitment to renewable energy, which is increasingly important to businesses seeking to locate new or expand existing facilities.

The Project strengthens the regions capacity to serve electrical demands and does not impact existing community water and sewer services.

This study area was selected through an evaluation of 22 potential project locations. The site of the Black Hollow Solar Project was selected for the following advantages:

• Ample land available and the ability to accommodate a wide range of photovoltaic solar layouts that are considerate of sensitive areas and residential views

• The lands are relatively flat and unshaded, with south facing aspects

• Existing oil and gas operations can continue and are compatible with project operations

• Existing transmission infrastructure provides a point for interconnection and no significant lengths of new transmission lines would be required

All reasonable alternatives within this study area were thoroughly assessed for their ability to meet requirements to protect and enhance the natural and socio-economic conditions in Weld County; mitigations will be developed with stakeholders throughout the planning and permitting process to further reduce impacts.

The Project will power approximately 43,000 homes per year under Platte River’s power purchase agreement (PPA) for 150 MW of generating capacity.

The Project will deliver some of the lowest cost energy in the nation and help Platte River continue providing power to its owner communities at the lowest wholesale rates in Colorado. Platte River factored costs for this Project into its long-range planning models.

The proposed facility will consist of single axis tracker PV modules that will be mounted on racking systems and arranged in multiple blocks. Similar technology is being used at a dozen other solar farms in Weld and Larimer counties, such as at Highway 14 and Weld County Road 19. The current plan anticipates up to 800,000 photovoltaic solar modules. The panels are grey-blue, non-reflective and about 8 to 10 feet tall.

Photovoltaic solar is one of the only land uses that can be installed and later removed without impacting long-range agricultural use of the land. Land proposed for this project is not irrigated.

Photovoltaic solar is one of the quietest and cleanest forms of energy generation. Its construction activities are less disruptive than other industrial construction. Noise from construction will be managed through development of a noise mitigation plan and will meet Weld County’s noise standards for construction. The Project will be designed to accommodate an adequate buffer distance to minimize noise effects on adjacent land uses.  

The entire site will not need to be graded. Dust generated during construction will be mitigated by spraying water along site roads and areas under construction, along with other best practices.

In order to maximize the output of the solar cells while minimizing the glare from the solar cells, the glass face of a standard crystalline PV panel is designed with greater than 95% light absorption. Anti-reflective coating on the glass, which is incorporated in the manufacturing process, increases light absorption even further. As a result, nearly 97% of the light that strikes a solar panel is absorbed and turned into electricity – leaving minimal light to reflect off and create any potential glare from the solar array.

The Project is being developed with input from landowners, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Weld County and other state and federal agencies to minimize impacts to natural resources, including wildlife and wetlands. For example, surveys conducted to identify and protect active raptor nests have ultimately helped to determine the Project’s final location and timing of construction. The Project will be set back a minimum of 1/2-mile from Black Hollow Reservoir and no designated critical habitat areas will be impacted by the Project. Most of the areas under study have already been disturbed through prior agricultural activities.

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