Coldharbour Solar Project

This 500-kilowatt project was scheduled for construction in 2019, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it has been canceled.

Background

Prior to 2018, the Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA) Board had considered several proposals from solar developers, though none had been able or willing to offer a competitive power price. In other words, every proposal would have resulted in higher wholesale power cost.

In 2018, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) conducted a joint solicitation for proposals to construct solar arrays for five Colorado cooperatives. GCEA joined the group following the selection of a developer and began working with the developer on two 500-kilowatt (0.5 megawatt) projects including the Coldharbour Solar Project.

The original pricing from the developer would have resulted in a small savings of about three percent. The GCEA Board voted unanimously in favor of the project.

Sequence of Events

In August of 2018, the project was approved by GCEA’s power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. The deadline for commercial operation was set as March 1, 2020. GCEA worked with the developer over the next five-and-a-half months to bring the project to fruition. During that time, the developer was renegotiating with GCEA, the landowner, and the contractor. GCEA made concessions that effectively reduced savings from the project to zero. The GCEA Board also authorized the use of funds from the newly created Local Renewable Project Development Fund. Eventually, the developer indicated that they were still going to be over budget by more than $170,000 and would be unable to complete the project at the original price. On January 23, 2019, the GCEA Board severed ties with the developer and began working again with RMI in hopes of finding another developer. The landowner also decided at this time to take the Coldharbour site off the table.

In February of 2019, RMI obtained five bids from developers for a 1-megawatt project at an alternate site. Two of the bids were cost-effective, but the developers were unable to provide assurances of completing the project by the deadline. Given the fact that a preliminary review of the site was going to be delayed due to snow cover, and the time needed for the permitting process in general, the risk of missing the deadline was high and the cost of missing it was unacceptable to the Board.

Current Status of the Project

The relationship with the developer has been terminated due to the developer’s inability to deliver at or near the projected price. The site has been removed from consideration by the landowner due to concerns related to wildlife impact.

Next Steps

GCEA is continuing to seek other viable sites and is screening potential sites to determine if they are suitable and if permits are attainable. Once a suitable site has been identified, we intend to seek competing bids from developers.