BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – The city of Belen is one major step closer to bringing a large solar farm to town. On Monday, the city council approved preliminary plans to bring a 1,600-acre solar farm on the north side of town.
The 1,600-acre solar farm would sit on the 6,000-acre Rancho Cielo, on the west side of I-25 between Belen and Los Lunas. According to the project website, the Sky Ranch Solar Project would generate 190 megawatts of renewable energy, 200 construction jobs, and other long-term jobs.
On Monday, Belen City Council approved the industrial revenue bonds to help fund the $273 million project. “When you do industrial revenue bonds, it does wipe away the revenue tax, the gross receipts tax that may be available in that particular development, but what it does in the long term, is it sets up a fee schedule to be paid by the company that will go directly to the city of Belen,” said Jerah Cordova, Mayor of Belen.
He said they’ve been working to develop that area of Belen for nearly two decades and said this proposed project is a big step towards that. “What this development in particular does, it cracks open again the west side of I-25, 6,000 acres of developable land that will now be available for future development. It gives us new access to that area where we have not had access before and it allows us to continue the planning around what that development will look like whether that is commercial, industrial and or residential development,” he said.
According to Councilor and Mayoral candidate Robert Noblin, the project is estimated to bring $13.6 million in revenue to the city of about 7,400 over 30 years. “Once this is established and on the west side there in the city of belen, we’ll have, many opportunities for, I believe, industrial and manufacturing type businesses there along the corridor as well,” he said.
The city will now enter into negotiations with the company behind the project, Next Era Energy, which includes seeing the final design of what the farm could look like. “At this point we get into some more details on the industrial revenue bonds and that process. It goes through a bunch of bond attorneys and some more approvals will come to the Belen city councils,” said Mayor Cordova.
Once all the necessary approvals are completed, the company could break ground on the project at the beginning of 2022 and be up and running by December of 2022.