Environmental Stewardship & Concerns

Every action has consequences

Utility-scale solar projects that are located on inappropriate sites, like the proposed Hesperus Solar, can have catastrophic consequences for the environment and community,  which include loss of wildlife habitat resulting in permanently reduced plant and animal populations; impacts to soil, water and air resources; and much more. 


A range of adverse impacts are associated with the construction, operation, and decommissioning of industrial-sized solar power projects. Some of the concerns of local residents are outlined below.

Toggle between topics to learn more

The 1,920 acres that Primergy proposes converting to an industrial-scale facility has long been a major migratory corridor and winter range for large numbers of mule deer and elk. Ungulates use these acres for winter range and stay through spring as they green up and calve, before moving to higher elevations. 

Conserving this area of the San Juan Basin (where 27,000 mule deer and 19,000 elk have been identified) is a main focus of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. The Tribe is in the middle of a multi-year study to track elk through this corridor from New Mexico to the San Juan Mountains, a study that is crucial for identifying the exact number of elk that Primergy’s development would threaten. CPW calls the migration area and winter range “significant.” And CPW guidelines recommend avoiding—not minimizing or mitigating–industrial development in big game winter ranges, calving areas, and migration pathways or pinch points.


In addition, Primergy’s proposed industrial installation would reduce and destroy habitat that sustains already-decreasing, native species. The enormous solar array, along with removal of vegetation and soil disturbance, would harm both the number and diversity of local animal and plant populations. 

  • The eight feet tall metal fencing that Primergy would install to surround its 500,000 panels would restrict all ambulatory wildlife from the area. 
  • Scientists report that large-scale solar installations in the U.S. Southwest (such as Primergy proposes) contribute to bird mortality– likely due to “the lake-effect” that causes migrating waterfowl to mistake the mass of solar panels for bodies of water and crash into them. 
  • A recent scientific study found that large scale solar installations can alter everything from sun exposure to moisture to surface temperatures with harmful impacts on local plants, animals, and even the area’s soil microbiome. 

This proposed Industrial facility will erect up to 500,000 panels. All energy generated by this massive installation would be transmitted out of the area through Tri-State transmission lines. Local distribution cooperatives, La Plata Electric Association and Empire Electric Association, will not be purchasers. 

 “While this project is within LPEA’s service territory, we want to stress that LPEA is not involved in the development of this project. Primergy is an independent power producer without affiliation to LPEA. LPEA is not bound by any expectations to purchase the power from this project, or even transmit it over LPEA lines.” Jessica Matlock

California-based Primergy’s proposal is not for community-scale solar energy generation that would benefit locals. It would be a massive, industrial-scale development built to sell energy to the highest bidder.

California-based Primergy’s proposal is not for community-scale solar energy generation that would benefit locals. It would be a massive, industrial-scale development built to sell energy to the highest bidder.

Primergy claims that, if approved, its industrial facility would create more than 250 temporary jobs during construction, with only three permanent positions. These jobs are not likely to be filled by local residents. In fact, Primergy, which is based in California, has told us that there is no promise for local job fulfillment, due to inexperience or “lack of able skill sets.” Primergy has an existing contract with a national/international job recruitment firm in South Dakota that solicits employees worldwide. This employment firm’s international website already includes job listings for Primergy’s proposed industrial construction in Hesperus.


In addition to the lack of economic benefit to local workers and families, concerns related to a temporary influx of hundreds of construction workers include:

  • Lack of short term workforce housing. Despite Primergy’s claims to the contrary, our area already has a serious shortage of affordable housing. A rapid and temporary influx of hundreds of additional workers (and their families) would have a drastic effect on both rental prices and availability.  
  • Possible large influx of campers and other mobile housing for temporary workers without locations or infrastructure to accommodate them. Given our area’s lack of workforce housing and based on lessons from other communities struggling to handle surges of temporary workers, we can anticipate a possible influx of mobile housing without capacity to handle it. 
  • Immediate impact on local infrastructure, including roads and traffic, emergency services, schools, medical care, safety resources, basic services, and community amenities. 

Primergy’s underlying lack of investment in our community is evidenced by national/international job recruitment that has already started and the corporation’s failure to consider the impact of hundreds of temporary workers and their families on local life.

The potential tax revenue for La Plata County that Primergy claims is far outweighed by costs to the public and the County. The only local economic benefit this industrial facility can claim is revenue from the state tax on renewables. California-based Primergy maintains that La Plata County will receive $37 million over the 45-year life of the project ($822k annually) from this tax. 


We are concerned that: 


  • Much of the renewable tax payments could remain at the state level, never reaching La Plata County. There are no guarantees that the revenue would be distributed locally.  
  • Primergy’s claim assumes taxes will remain the same over the 45-year life of this industrial-sized installation. However, nothing guarantees these tax levels would not be greatly reduced, eliminated, or otherwise changed by the state legislature, ballot initiatives, inflation, or other economic factors during the next 45 years.
  • The true cost to county government (and taxpayers) would include increased county staff and administration during the proposal, construction, maintenance and decommissioning of the industrial site over 45 years. The costs for reviewing the proposal, protecting the community and environment, monitoring, decommissioning, and restoring the industrial site is unknown, substantial, and likely to increase. 
  • Overall, the extraordinary cost impact of the industrial-sized facility on the local economy or county coffers are not figured into the tax “benefit” that Primergy claims. Significant costs described elsewhere on this website would include: 
  • The direct and indirect impact of constructing a massive industrial-scale facility on local roads, traffic mitigation, increased dust and particulates in the air, and other public consequences.
  • The impact on local infrastructure of an influx of hundreds of temporary workers and their families during construction.
  • Local property devaluation which would have a ripple effect on county tax revenue and throughout the local economy. 
  • The significant loss of large game (and its related revenue), as well as other wildlife and biodiversity.
  • Increased local capacity necessary to respond to fire and safety hazards, which must be maintained throughout the facility’s lifespan and possibly beyond.
  • Possible damage to local and downstream water quality.
  • Irreversible loss of archaeological and historic deposits that may exist on the site.
  • Decommissioning and restoration of the site, which would leave behind a wasteland unfit for agricultural use. If its proposal is approved, Primergy would be required to post a surety for decommissioning the industrial complex at the end of its 45-year lifespan. Estimates of the costs in today’s dollars for decommissioning do not cover known and unknown damages, cost increases, or changes in currency and land valuation that may occur over 45 years. Shortfalls in covering the costs of damages and restoration would be covered by public dollars. 


As we know from abandoned mines and orphan oil & gas wells in our area, energy companies are often bought, sold and folded, resulting in lack of accountability over the long haul and leaving a legacy of long-term damage and taxpayer expense.

As a result of serious, prolonged drought, our area (including the 1,920 acres proposed for Primergy’s facility) is within an area identified by the federal government as a very high wildfire hazard area, where a fire can spread fast and burn at high intensity. The possibility of fires resulting from or intensified by a large-scale solar system is very concerning to the general public and firefighters within the region.

Located within the Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District, Primergy’s proposed industrial-scale facility would be served by a volunteer fire service that has limited human, equipment, and material resources. Although Primergy has pledged to train the volunteer firefighters, training is not enough to ensure that these dedicated volunteers have the resources necessary to mitigate or respond to potential fires and other toxic emergencies.

A recent study by Firetrace International, a leading provider of fire suppression technology, indicates that large-scale solar facility fires are seeing a sharp rise – far out-pacing the increase in the number of these solar installations. The study highlights that the solar industry could be misjudging the threat of fire and that it urgently needs to address the issue. It also attributes a shortage of data about solar facility fires to under-reporting and lack of industry transparency. 

Lithium-ion Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESSs), such as those included in Primergy’s proposal, may present even greater danger than fires related to solar panels. BESS fires have been reported worldwide. BESS hazards include the release of toxic and/or flammable gases, which often lead to a probable fire and potential explosion. According to a FEMA-funded study, failure of one lithium cell in a large storage system can cascade to include hundreds of individual cells. The hot, flammable gases that are released can result in an explosion, or a fire that is very difficult to extinguish. The use of water to fight a highly toxic, battery fire can potentially perpetuate it by additional cell shorting, and the fire water run-off can cause further toxicity and danger.

Despite current discussions regarding decommissioning, the reality is that this rural land will be lost forever. Industrial-scale solar projects are typically 30-40 years. This industrial facility has confirmed up to 500,000 panels for 45 years. Construction of an industrial-scale solar power plant requires removal of trees, brush and root balls prior to installation of the arrays, creating an ecological wasteland. Grading, pile driving, blasting, electric cable trenching and road construction will compact the soil, likely delaying agricultural use for years after the project’s end. Stripping and compaction removes topsoil, destroys healthy soil organisms and allows for invasion of exotic plants that choke out native species.

Residents are very concerned about the impact on well water quality within the vicinity. Uncontrolled runoff of water and topsoil is a well-documented byproduct of industrial-scale solar site development. This massive increase in watershed sedimentation impacts all downstream rivers and estuaries. Water contamination doesn’t stop with the end of construction. Removal of all trees and deep-rooted plants, along with inadequate stormwater controls lead to long-term runoff and water contamination issues. Local governments usually do not have adequate resources to monitor construction and stormwater violations and, even when properly monitored, site developers have no problem paying fines, and there is no effective check on environmental damage.

Gambel oak, grasses, native plants and weeds will attempt to regenerate on the disturbed land. For management, there are generally a few ways solar farms deal with ‘unwanted’ vegetation. Predominantly the combination of high rates of herbicide and ground cover, resulting in toxic contamination to the soil and water run off. Particles from damaged and degrading panels also introduce other chemicals and heavy metals into the land. There are carcinogenic health risks and these are some of our most valuable resources.

Many rural areas are the last undeveloped sites that contain prehistoric and historic archaeological deposits. Industrial development of these sites results in the irreversible loss of our history. The archival research, physical examinations and state mandated review have only recently begun and are still being conducted on the proposed industrial facility’s property. This includes land within Fort Lewis, including evidence of a Native American Boarding School which operated from 1891-1910. The land also includes Camp Lewis, a designated demobilization camp that was then retained as a permanent post after WWI. Wildcat Canyon Road (now HWY 141) was used to transport all troops and materials to Fort Lewis. Fort Lewis is unique because the land and real property have remained in public trust, allowing for its survival to the present and use as a significant historical resource.

Most residents built their homes encompassing the incredible unrestricted La Plata view. Now there will be consistent noise disruption, potential glint and glare into these residences in the evening hours and light pollution in the night sky. Based on recent studies, the expected reduction in property value ranged from 5-25% depending on proximity.

The classification of ELF magnetic fields as carcinogenic to humans has been made by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Prolonged environmental exposure, even if minor, constitute a health hazard if it results in stress. In humans, an adverse health effect results from a biological effect that causes detectable impairment in the health or wellbeing of exposed individuals. Many health outcomes ranging from reproductive defects to cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases have been examined, but the most consistent evidence to date concerns childhood leukemia. This Industrial facility has confirmed there are 500,000 proposed panels that will be emitting these frequencies.

Structures absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes such as forests and water bodies. Where structures are highly concentrated and greenery is limited, become ‘islands’ of higher temperatures relative to outlying areas. These pockets of heat are referred to as “heat islands.” Studies have demonstrated that temperatures around a solar power farm were 5.4-7.2 degrees warmer than nearby wild lands.

Insufficient surety fund by the developer could result in county responsibility for decommissioning costs. Net Decommissioning costs can range from $43,584/MW to $101,915/MW. No plan and cost should ever be approved without a full understanding of the cost to return the land to its original condition, and the county should not be responsible for these potential costs.


Stay up-to-date on meetings, information about the process, the petition and how to get involved!

Community Discussion

7 thoughts on “Concerns”

  1. I am very concerned about this project, thank you for everything you are doing to stop this desecration of land and community. I have signed up and I am ready to help in any way possible.

  2. This is a really big deal! I can’t believe that a California company wants to mow over our beautiful county for electricity that would be going somewhere else. Our elk and environment are more important than profit. I will be at the meeting.

  3. My partner and I are very concerned for what this will do to our water quality on our property that’s located just south of the proposed area. We have a small ranch that we have worked to accomplish.

  4. I am an avid supporter of responsible green energy who has rooftop solar panels and a hybrid car. And I strongly oppose this industrial development. A California corporation proposes to destroy a valuable ecosystem for profit. This is not responsible solar energy generation. It’s wrongly sited, wrongly sized and of no benefit to our community or local environment.

  5. Please read the attached article. I sent it to LaPlata Electric. If this happens on a large scale, it’s happening on a small scale projects, just ignored.
    I joined your news letter and will join in your fight.

  6. Do you all remember when New York city was buying up another mountain state, namely, West Virginia, and using it for a multi acre landfill site?? Rhetorical question coming up. Did it benefit the local population. Don’t give away paradise!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top