- Construction is expected to begin later this year
- the solar farm could produce up to 400 megawatts of energy per day
- It could provide power to 100,000 to 150,000 homes
The City of Rio Rancho is one step closer to becoming home to one of the largest solar farms in the state.
Thursday night, the Rio Rancho Governing Body unanimously approved a resolution to modify the Quail Ranch Master Plan, which will enable the Atrisco Solar Farm to be built.
The farm will be located on the West Mesa, about 10 miles southwest of downtown Rio Rancho, on roughly 3,100 undeveloped acres in the western portion of Quail Ranch.
The area is considered an ideal site for the farm as the land is flat; vegetation is primarily scrub brush, and the population is relatively sparse.
If built as planned, the solar farm could produce up to 400 megawatts of energy per day and provide power to 100,000 to 150,000 homes, making the farm one of the largest in the state.
Clenera, a renewable energy company in Boise, has overseen the development of the Atrisco Solar Farm since 2019.
Senior Development Project Manager Eric Desmarais represented Clenera at Thursday’s meeting.
James Strozier, of the Albuquerque firm Consensus Planning, agent for Clenera, was also at the meeting.
Both Desmarais and Strozier answered the governing body’s questions about the solar farm, some of which concerned the zoning requirement for landscaping.
The Atrisco Solar Farm has requested that the landscaping requirement be waived, but include language that landscaping would be installed “if and when it becomes necessary.”
There was a bit of concern about waiving the requirement and if there were precedent for doing so.
Councilor Paul Wymer said that at a previous meeting, he remembered a “utility type project” where landscaping was not required because of the project’s intended use.
Strozier addressed the governing body, saying that he had overseen several projects in undeveloped areas where the proposals included the same language as the Atrisco Solar Farm regarding landscaping being required “if and when it’s needed.”
Strozier called that a “really good approach that adds that assurance but doesn’t put that burden on until it’s time.”
Although a landscape requirement may not seem particularly important, Kathleen Cates, a Rio Rancho Realtor, addressed the meeting and explained its importance:
“…many of my customers are living in this undeveloped [area] and I’ve spent a lot of time out in this undeveloped area and I would just like to say that because the land is so flat it’s more susceptible to our ferocious winds.”
Cates went on to explain how several of her clients didn’t realize they’d need landscaping until the winds blew dust everywhere.
The Rio Rancho Planning and Zoning Division approved the proposal to amend the Quail Ranch Master Plan on May 10, then submitted it to the Governing Body, recommending it be approved.
Amending the Quail Ranch Master Plan will not change zoning in the area. Rather, it establishes an overlay to the area with special features that the solar farm will need.
Construction on the Atrisco Solar Farm is expected to begin later this year.