A property along Interstate 70 southwest of Parachute that’s already home to natural gas wells also will be producing another form of power according to the plans of a Denver company.

Pivot Energy is pursuing a project to install solar power on about 20 acres of a 114-acre parcel sandwiched between I-70 and U.S. Highway 6 just west of the I-70 exit southwest of Parachute. The land is owned by Strait Bottom Ranch LLC.

The 3-megawatt direct-current installation would produce power equivalent to that required by 400 to 500 average homes, the company estimates.

The project would supply power to Xcel Energy’s SolarRewards Community program, which lets customers subscribe to third-party, community solar garden projects and receive credits applied against their utility bills.

According to Xcel’s website, eligibility for subscribing to a project is limited to Xcel residential or business customers living in the same county as a project, or an adjacent county.

“I’ll just state that this is a good use of those lands,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky told Pivot Energy representative Luke Rickard. “Those are badlands, and it’s very narrow between (highways) 6 and 70, so it’s just a real good use of those lands. I’m glad you brought it forward.”

While the county received no public comments on the project, the town of Parachute came out in opposition to it. Though the land is outside the town now, the town’s manager, Stuart McArthur, said in a letter to the county that Parachute “has been planning for this parcel and parcels around it to serve the residents of and contribute to the economic base of Parachute and the surrounding area.” He said properties between I-70 and Highway 6 should be reserved for more commercial and traffic-intensive uses given their proximity to I-70 and its nearby exit, and the project wouldn’t result in local jobs, instead only requiring construction jobs for an estimated three months.

County planning staff and Pivot Energy contended the solar project would be a suitable short-term, transitional use of the property, with the planning staff also noting that most of the 114-acre parcel would remain undeveloped under the project plan.

Pivot Energy has a 20-year contract with Xcel and the landowner, although there may be the option to extend that contract, “because the equipment will still be good, the panels will still be producing power” after 20 years, Rickard told commissioners.

The project will make use of panels mounted on single-axis trackers that let the panels follow the sun from east to west each day. Rickard said an analysis was done that predicts no hazard from glare to local properties or rights of way, and the project doesn’t involve much nuisance in terms of noise, dust or pollution.

“It’s generally rather quiet and clean and sort of sits there and passively produces power,” he said.

He said part of Pivot Energy’s proposal to Xcel is to contribute up to $30,000 for local scholarships, and the company will first approach Garfield County School District 16 in Parachute about making scholarship money available.