Large solar farms may dominate the future of Utah Hamlet in an attempt to maintain their small-town feel.


With fewer than 150 residents and vast expanses of undeveloped agricultural land, Fairfield’s serene habitat sits at a crossroads of Utah history, a major military installation in the 1850s and a location used as an important route on the Pony Express Occupied.

Now, long before horseback mail carriers and historic Camp Floyd are away, Fairfield faces another crossroads – it’s about the proposed future as a solar energy vortex. Three major projects have been proposed within its main boundaries or at its junction, raising concerns that the city’s rural standard of living may be sacrificed for Utah County’s rapidly growing technological hub.

NextEra Energy Resources, the nation’s largest independent producer of renewable energy, is proposing two 160-megawatt projects of 160 MW each, each occupied by 1,200 acres of Randlands, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Is in

Peter Lawrence, a former city council member who moved to Fairfield 10 years ago with his wife Sylvia, fears the city is being squeezed between two unnatural options: accepting solar projects or turning into new subdivisions Risk by looking at open space.

“For me,” he said, “it’s a win, no win.”

While the city has a small population, its boundaries are set in the 2004 incorporation, 25 square miles south of Cove Fort. It occupies a part of the Cedar Valley, which is filled with wildlife migration routes and provides important habitat for birds and big game.

Next Era expects to sell power to Rocky Mountain Power, with plans to add 7,000 MW of wind and sun-generated capacity by 2023. Also, the two Fairfield projects will equal the total amount of rooftop solar currently installed in the utility services sector; And they are beginning to anticipate the coming wave of utility-scale solar projects. Each megawatt of solar requires five to eight acres of land.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Heidi Brunner talks about plans for a solar farm near her home in Fairfield, Wednesday, October 14, 2020.
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Heidi Brunner talks about plans for a solar farm near her home in Fairfield, Wednesday, October 14, 2020.
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Fairfield’s third project, known as QuickSilver Solar, has been proposed by Sandy-based Enyo Renewable Energy. Fairfield and the rest will be in Eagle Mountain and unincorporated Utah County on just 200 acres.

Proposed projects in Fairfield cover amphitheater in the east of the city, part of Eagle Mountain.

Ronnie Wilson said at a recent city meeting, “By and large, this land is not productive.” “I’d rather see a solar farm than subdivisions. The church can sell it. A solar farm can be a better neighbor than subdivisions.”

Farmland Reserve Inc. is the church’s profitable agricultural enterprise, seasonally grazing on land, a zone for agriculture and low-density residential development. According to Mayor Brad Gern, solar projects require a change in zoning, to allow the use of nonforming.

“There is some concern. This is a big project for our city. “Until we get some more information from them, it’s a mixed bag.”

NextEra and church officials presented the proposed solar farms at an August 19 meeting, where they were met with tough questions from skeptical residents.

Farmland Reserve is looking at some of its agricultural holdings, both inside and outside Utah, to identify moderately productive lands that may be better suited to support solar arrays than livestock. Cases. Some of its Fairfield holdings fit that bill.

“We try to make the highest and best use of the property,” he said at the August meeting. “We will continue to produce agriculture, but there are places that are prominent for solar, and we want to participate in that. The church has an interest in energy, especially clean energy. “

The church also does not own 26,000 acres to the south in the Goshen Valley, where it is also considering leases from solar developers, Quinton said.

Three other major projects are already proposed in that area on more than 10,000 acres of private land owned by the church, according to documents on file with the Utah County Board of Adjustment.

Clarena is doing business as a solar energy developer in Ussa, as Parsol Renewable Energy. The Faraday-Goshen Valley Solar Farm will cover 5,500 acres west of Utah Lake, and Maxwell Solar will cover 2,800 acres. And Strata Solar is seeking to develop the proposed Project Eagle on 1,760 acres.

The Fairfield projects will be developed in separate phases, each with enough lithium-ion batteries to store the farm’s power generation for a few hours. According to Stephen Ekman and Ryan Fitzpatrick, Next Era project managers, who spoke at the meeting, the goal would be to match the project’s peak power generation with afternoon demand in the afternoon.

The company will lease the land from the church for 30 years of life from the projects.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cemetery in Fairfield, Wednesday, October 14, 2020.
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cemetery in Fairfield, Wednesday, October 14, 2020.
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Solar panels will be placed on motorized tracks to face the sun during the day and at least one mile away from any existing homes. The first project will create 350 construction works and five permanent operational posts.

“Studies indicate that there is no impact on property values ​​on surrounding dwellings,” Ekman said.

Residents’ questions, however, reflect serious doubts about the project’s impacts.

“What a joke. Do you expect people to believe?” Retired resident Zarine Hancock. “Take out from your dialogues what you think you will bring to this city, which is nothing.” Thank God you did not raise the subject of royalty. Money has no meaning for us. Your argument is lame. “

Lawrence said the proponents are asking city residents to accept a huge “eye light” in their midst, while providing little in return.

“This is not a good place for a solar farm. Sylvia Lawrence said that there are many other places that are not close to a small town that do not want to encroach. “You will find that it is not being accepted very well.”

Deserted in open plains and sun-dried West Desert on largely public lands in Ota. While the Bureau of Land Management has designated several parts as “solar enterprise zones”, developers pursuing projects on these public lands are left out of fear that federal red tape will render them uncompetitive. As a result, supporters have looked at potential solar installations on private and state trust land.

Sometimes they mean cities near Bluff and Fairfield, where residents are not thrilled to see their rustic views.

In an interview, Fitzpatrick of NextEra said his firm decided to operate in Fairfield because a landowner there is eager to host solar farms, increasing demand for electric power and proximity to existing transmission.

“This is going to be a prime location,” he said, vowing to be sensitive to Fairfield’s interests.

“We like to engage the community, really get an understanding of their ideas, their needs, their concerns about a project,” Fitzpatrick said, “so that we can use that feedback in the development of our sites . “

At a recent meeting, a Fairfield Town Council member said he was shocked by how little revenue Fairfield would see from the project. Most property taxes generated by the projects will go to the Alpine School District, and the city will be obliged to bear the effects of the project, while the majority of the revenue generated will flow elsewhere.

The council member said, “Those job creations are not going to benefit us because we don’t have restaurants or gas stations.” “We have a volunteer fire department. They are not trained to take out battery fires. The city has to be something more helpful than just renewable energy that helps everyone but us. … We are small municipalities that enjoy their open space. “

NextEra officials acknowledged that the city would not see a tax bonanza, but pledged the company, which already has renewable energy projects in 36 other states, to work with the community to identify it May reduce the need.

“We want to be part of the community. We are one of the few renewable energy companies that develop and operate our plants. “We come in, do the right thing and treat people with respect because we are going to be part of the community for a really long time.”

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