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Local solar facility proposal prompts appeal
A Powell Butte resident living near the site expressed concerns about proposed facility
January 24, 2013
A recently-filed appeal has cast doubt on the future of a proposed solar power facility on private property in Powell Butte.
Craig Kilpatrick and Ryan Hulett, of Crook County Solar 1, have sought approval from Crook County Planning Department to build a solar array on 12 acres of Kilpatrick’s 173-acre property. They have asked to build the first 500-kilowatt first phase of the facility on 3.8 acres. The property is located in Powell Butte on the south side of O’Neil Highway, about nine miles west of Prineville.
“It’s a small project,” said Crook County Planning Director Bill Zelenka. “It’s one step above what they call net metering, where you and I could put (solar panels) in there and all of the excess reverses the meter and goes onto the grid.”
Zelenka said that the Planning Department initially approved the requested solar facility administratively under Crook County Ordinance 229, which allows for solar projects provided they meet certain guidelines. They then gave public notice of the decision with the opportunity to appeal.
John Moss, a Powell Butte resident who owns property near the requested facility, took advantage of that opportunity, appealing the decision on the basis of several concerns.
“My main displeasure was that they were going to get access through a private road that runs right through our farming operation,” Moss said.
He also took exception with the Planning Department approving the facility administratively, since the decision could affect many nearby residents.
“I think it had enough interest in the community,” he said. “I think that this is something that people all over the community will be able to see.”
Moss went on to say that the solar facility could adversely affect property values in Powell Butte, and that once the County allows one, more will likely follow.
“I’m not sure it is the best thing for the County, choosing to put those things in,” he said.
Regarding future solar facility proposals, Zelenka said that the Planning Department would evaluate any requests on a case-by-case basis.
Although Planning Department approval of the facility remains unsettled, PacifiCorp has already granted Crook County Solar 1 approval to connect to the grid. According to a Level 2 Interconnection Review Report conducted by the power company, Crook County Solar 1 applied to connect their solar plant to an existing Powell Butte circuit. To obtain approval, an applicant has to meet a set of criteria to assure that the facility can safely and reliably connect to the current power system.
“A developer of a renewable energy project of some sort needs to go through some hoops and some qualifying with state and federal authorities,” said Tom Gauntt, spokesperson for PacifiCorp. “If they qualify and they are in the area that we serve, we are obligated to essentially work out an agreement with them and pick up and purchase their power.”
PacifiCorp determined this past October that the Crook County Solar 1 facility meets all of the necessary requirements.
As a result of Moss’ appeal, the Crook County Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed facility on Wednesday evening. The hearing drew very little testimony. The Planning Commission took the opportunity to ask Kilpatrick about the type of transmission line that would be used to connect their facility to the grid.
Attorney Laura Cooper, who is representing Moss, did not offer any testimony in opposition of the solar facility, but rather asked the Planning Commission to resume the hearing late next month. Until the hearing resumes, Cooper said that negotiations will continue with Crook County Solar 1 to resolve Moss’ concerns.
“We are hoping to reach a settlement that will make everybody happy,” she said.
Kilpatrick and Hulett declined to comment on the project and appeal.
The Planning Commission agreed to resume the public hearing on Feb. 27. They will accept written testimony and information regarding the matter until Feb. 15.