“This is not the time to put things off,” said Saguache County Commissioner Mike Spearman at the beginning of Tuesday afternoon’s regular meeting discussion. “We need to work through things and talk about them.”
The board agreed to a slightly adjusted counter-proposal that Spearman submitted on Feb. 12.
Using Alamosa County’s Decommission and Community Development Agreement with Congentrix as a model, Spearman is calling for more funding and increased opportunities in the bond agreement.
SolarReserve offered $1 million reclamation bond at the start of construction to be doubled 10 years later, eventually totaling $10 million in year 20. Spearman wants a $1 million reclamation bond for each tower at the beginning of construction and a five-year review and a $1 million increase. At year 10, the bond would be worth $5 million and, at year 20, the bond would be worth $10 million.
Spearman said that his preliminary research shows that a $1 million bond will cost between $25,000 and $30,000 annually.
In regards to local jobs and training, SolarReserve is promising to comprise 40 percent of its operational staff with residents and pay a one-time penalty of $50,000 to the county for every 10 percent shortfall. Spearman wants the penalty pay for every 5 percent shortfall and to stipulate the money will be used for related solar training.
“Once again, I hope they don’t pay us anything,” Spearman said. “The whole San Luis Valley is going to benefit from this project.”
Lastly, Spearman recommended $200,000 for a Visitor Information Center over the $100,000 SolarReserve offer.
In addition to the proposal, Spearman wants $50,000 annually for the Saguache County Tourism board to spend on VIC staffing and operation, operation of a shuttle system to and from the project site and general tourism promotion; and $10,000 for information kiosk upkeep in a future Center park.
The board revisited a handful of conditions, a supplement to the 1041 permit and the development agreement, to approve next week.
Russell Planning and Engineering Senior Planner Nancy Lauro, the county’s engineering consultant, made several comments and posed several questions to the board in regards to the documents.
Lauro recommended that the board clarify visual mitigation and property value expectations and opportunities.
“Be cautious and time intensive to document this if this is going to have an impact on homes,” she said. “You will need to physically assess the situation.”
The rest of the 32 conditions were approved with language modifications. Some language modifications were made to imply adaptability and flexibility.
In addition, Lauro said that the county would have to recognize federal Homeland Security regulations, but that she was waiting to learn what the agency requires.
The board also discussed the project’s impact on the county landfill and county services in general. They are considering following Tonopah’s agreement that states if the project increases county service by 10 percent, Solar Reserve will have to pay.
“They have offered a flat fee,” said Saguache County Commissioner Linda Joseph. “I think it is much better to do something adjusted.”
Spearman and Joseph and select Saguache County staff traveled to Tonopah, Nev. earlier this month to glean insight from SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes Solar Project.
SolarReserve completed the first phase of the concentrated solar tower project in February. The tower is 540 feet tall, about 100 feet less than the proposed Saguache County towers.
Although the Tonopah project has its differences – it is on federal lands, it is smaller and decimated mining zones take the place of the Great Sand Dunes – the trip offered the opportunity to explore the project’s business element.
“I wanted to talk with local officials and see if Solar Reserve is as easy to get along with post permit,” Spearman said. “Their business is welcome there.”
The size of the recently completed tower was not shocking, he added.
“A tower is a tower and you can’t hide it,” Spearman said. “It is a trade off for the jobs and to contribute to the solution of energy problems in the U.S.”
The board will hold a Solar Reserve work session on Tues., March 13 at 10 a.m. In addition to the conditions and the counter-proposal, the board hopes to make progress on the development agreement.
SolarReserve is proposing 200-megawatt solar power-generating 100 percent clean energy facility north of Center that consists of two 100 MW 656-foot tall solar thermal power generating units based on concentrating solar-thermal power technology.
The board must make a decision on the 1041 SolarReserve permit application by April 2 unless SolarReserve agrees to an extension.