Massive solar project proposed in Rio Rancho - Albuquerque Journal

Massive solar project proposed in Rio Rancho

RIO RANCHO — The City of Rio Rancho could become home to one of the largest solar farms in the state.

Clenera, a private Boise, Idaho-based renewable energy company, wants to build solar panels on about 3,100 acres of unused land in the western portion of Quail Ranch.

The ranch sits on the West Mesa in Bernalillo County and is annexed within the City of Rio Rancho.

The solar project would create about 350 jobs during peak construction and then four full-time jobs.

The goal is to have the panels up and running by June 2024, according to the company.

“We are looking to build the Atrisco Solar farm on this particular site as it is an exceptional location for solar,” Clenera Senior Development Project Manager Eric Demarais told the Observer in an email. “It is directly adjacent to high voltage transmission lines, is a mostly flat site, and has minimal impact to resources.”

The solar panels could produce up to 400 megawatts per day.

“If we build the full 400 megawatts it would be one of the largest solar farms in the state,” he said, adding that it could power about 100,000-150,000 homes.

“It is a rough back of the envelope estimate and that is why there is a large range,” he said. “It was meant to try and show the size and scale of the facility.”

He added that homes aren’t a good standard unit of measurement because homes across the country and the state “can have widely varying electric usage.”

The site would also allow for solar generation storage including a distribution system to help ease stress on the grid during peak energy consumption.

“This facility will help PNM (Public Service Company of New Mexico) meet their energy demands of their customers including during those hot summer days when electric use is at its peak in Rio Rancho,” Demarais said.

The company has a purchase agreement with PNM.

The hope is to be a part of the larger plan for PNM to meet the needs of its customers across the state, he said, so they can have “continued reliable access to electricity.”

‘We’re excited’

The Rio Rancho Planning and Zoning Board recommended amending the Quail Ranch Master Plan to include the solar project, and a zone map amendment for the property at its Tuesday night meeting.

“We’re excited to bring this project forward,” Consensus Planning Principal James Strozier told the board.

Resident Paul Zamora, who lives near the proposed site, expressed concerns about safety for nearby homes but developers said that should not be an issue.

However, because the proposed site is about a couple miles north of Double Eagle II Airport, Strozier said the Federal Aviation Administration may request a glare study be conducted. The study would determine whether reflections from the panels are likely to interfere with the vision of pilots or air traffic controllers.

It is not known when the solar farm proposal will come before the Rio Rancho Governing Body.

If the project is given the go-ahead, then work could start at the end of the year, Demarais said.

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