JEROME — Cat Creek Energy plans to build a $120-million solar farm on 554 acres of leased land south of Eden, along Interstate 84 and next to Skeleton Butte.
The Jerome County Planning and Zoning Commission approved Monday night a special use permit for the proposal.
The 90-megawatt project will be built by atop what is currently agricultural land. The solar panels will cover about 80% of the surface. Cat Creek Energy agent James Carkulis said that the project could break ground in late 2021, at earliest, and construction would likely take eight to 12 months.
Carkulis said that the solar farm will have some impact on the area during construction. There will be about 50 vehicle trips per day during the building phase, and delivery of the panels alone will take roughly 350 truckloads. Once operational, the solar farm will require relatively little maintenance, with just two to four full-time employees.
Attorney Gary Slette, speaking on behalf of Cat Creek Energy, said the project will be similar to the one on the south side of Interstate 84 between Mountain Home and Boise.
The company is still working to find a buyer for the solar farm’s electricity, but the energy will not be sold to Idaho Power.
Per U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations the 249,000-panel solar farm will be surrounded by a six-foot tall barbed wire fence.
The panels on the farm will rotate during the day to catch the sun’s rays. Late in the day, the tops of the panels will be 14-feet high. Carkulis explained that Cat Creek Energy is building the panels a bit higher so that the grass underneath the panels can be grazed by sheep and goats.
Slette noted the project could have a 20 to 30-year lifespan, after which the land may return to agricultural use.
“I cannot think of a more benign and passive use of land than this solar park,” Slette said.
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