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DNRC Headquarters
1539 Eleventh Ave. Helena, MT 59601
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Apex Solar - Proposed Solar Development Lease


Proposed Apex Solar Commercial Lease near Dillon, MT

Last update:  May 29, 2019

The DNRC has received a proposal for a utility scale photovoltaic solar development on state trust land.  DNRC is moving forward with the environmental review process in accordance with Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), and has initiated public scoping.  The scoping period for the Apex Solar Commercial Lease Draft EIS is Wednesday, May 29, 2019, through Monday, July 1, 2019.  The DNRC invites all written comments and suggestions concerning this proposal.  Comments already submitted to the DNRC regarding this proposal will be considered as part of this scoping, and do not need to be resubmitted.  Comments may be submitted electronically by email to:

Or by mail to:

Tim Egan, Manager

DNRC Dillon Unit

840 N. Montana Street

Dillon, MT 59725

All comments must be received by Monday, July 1, 2019.

 

Project Summary

Land Information 

The 1,308 acres have two active grazing leases that, together generated an annual revenue of $2,430 in fiscal year 2018.   The land is also encumbered by an irrigation ditch, and water and power lines.  It is bordered by an irrigation ditch, a ranch residence to the west, Birch Creek County road, Interstate 15, an active state gravel pit, and one rural subdivision with a single private residence. 

History and Process

Letter of Interest:  In April 2018, DNRC received written interest from Clenera, LLC, an end-to-end utility-scale solar development and asset management service provider from Boise, Idaho.  Clenera proposed to develop a 2,720 acre photovoltaic (PV) Solar Farm in Beaverhead County, north of Dillon.  DNRC performed due diligence, including a review of revenue potential, consideration of current land use and compatibility with adjacent land use, access, ditch rights, and existing encumbrances.  DNRC also contacted County Commissioners, local State Representatives, and adjacent land owners, as well as met with current lessees of the impacted ground.

Request for Proposals (RFP):  In July 2018, DNRC released a 90-day RFP for a commercial lease on up to 1,308 acres (T5S R9W Part of Sections 28, 27, 33, and 34).  The RFP was to solicit a detailed proposal from any party interested in leasing the property under a commercial lease rate.  Upon release of the RFP, DNRC sent an email notification to existing lessees and to those adjacent landowners whose email address was on file.  A legal notice announcing the RFP was also published in the Montana Standard, and the Dillon Tribune for three weeks.  The minimum commercial lease fee for the 1,308 acres was posted in the RFP as $36,624, which is based on the land value.  However, any proposal for a renewable energy project was required to pay higher fees including a one-time fee of $1,000/MW installed nameplate capacity, PLUS annual rent at the greater of: 4% of land value; $36,624 OR $3,000/MW installed nameplate capacity OR 3% of gross annual revenues

Proposal:  In October 2018, DNRC received one proposal in response to the RFP.  The proposal was from Clenera, LLC for a 160 megawatt (MW) solar development project, including a substation and one or two structures for housing spare parts and supplies.  The proposed solar panel height is six feet tall, installed via steel driven piles with racking, and the project perimeter is proposed to be surrounded by an eight-foot tall chain-link fence.  The proposal forecasts commercial operation by June 2021, assuming the securing of all necessary permitting.  Upon receipt of the proposal, DNRC sent notice to lessees and adjacent landowners via email, and US mail where an email address was not on file. 

The proposed development is projected to generate $19 million in county taxes over 35 years, with $10 million generated in the first 15 years.  Additionally, the project is expected to generate several hundred temporary jobs during an eight-month development period and up to three permanent jobs.  Clenera purported they are currently negotiating a power purchase agreement, and that interconnection studies are underway for connecting to the NorthWestern Energy system.  The proposed point of interconnection is NorthWestern Energy's 161 kV transmission line traveling North-South through the subject property.  The proposal indicated that initial feasibility studies determined that only a few small upgrades would be required for NorthWestern Energy's transmission network to have capacity for the project.

The proposed revenue to the Trust includes:

  • $13,734 annual option fee for up to three years ($41,202 total)
  • $320,000 one-time installation fee (upon operations date)
  • $480,000 annual lease fee for first 15 years ($3,000 per MW for 160 MW)
  • $450,000 in bonus payments paid in the first 15 years
  • $520,000 annual lease fee for year 16 ($3,250 per MW for 160 MW), which then increases annually by 2% for the remainder of lease term (4 5-year renewal options).

 

Option to Lease:  On February 28, 2019, the DNRC signed an Option to Lease with Apex Solar, LLC, the project company for the proposed development, managed by Clenera, LLC.  A Option does not allow any development of the site.  The Option is contingent upon both Land Board approval of the Lease Agreement, and upon completion of an environmental review conducted in compliance with MEPA and its approval by the deciding officer for DNRC after reviewing all of the facts.  Existing grazing leases would remain available during the Option period. 

Land Board Approval:  The lease was approved by the Montana State Board of Land Commissioners (Land Board) at their public meeting on Monday, May 20, 2019.  The agenda, minutes, and audio of the meeting can be found on the DNRC Land Board webpage

Upcoming Opportunities for Public Involvement

Interested parties will be formally scoped for comments during the MEPA process which will include a public meeting (date and time TBD).  If you are interested in being scoped directly for this project, please sign up as an interested party through the portal at the bottom of this webpage.  DNRC will also continue to update this webpage throughout the process. 

MEPA Scoping: 

DNRC is moving forward with the environmental review process in accordance with Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and has initiated public scoping.  A scoping notice for the project was sent to interested parties on May 29, 2019.  The scoping period for the Apex Solar Commercial Lease Draft EIS is Wednesday, May 29, 2019, through Monday, July 1, 2019.  The DNRC invites all written comments and suggestions concerning this proposal.  Comments already submitted to the DNRC regarding this proposal will be considered as part of this scoping, and do not need to be resubmitted.  Comments may be submitted electronically by email to:

Or by mail to:

Tim Egan, Manager

DNRC Dillon Unit

840 N. Montana Street

Dillon, MT 59725

All comments must be received by Monday, July 1, 2019.

Public Meeting:  A public meeting(s) will be scheduled in the future, after the Draft EIS is published.  Details of the meeting(s) will be posted here, and will be emailed to interested parties. 

Notices 

May 2019 Scoping Notice 

May 2019 Interested Parties Letter

March 2019 Interested Parties Letter

Maps

Area Map

Proposed Site Plan

Documents 

Frequently Asked Questions

Option Contract

Proposed Lease Contract 

Clenera Proposal

Request for Proposals

Land Board Agenda, Minutes, Audio - May 20, 2019

To sign up as an Interested Party to receive email notifications on this project:

Email address:
Your name:

For other questions or to provide comments on the project, please email: 

 

 

Interested Parties

To sign up as an Interested Party to receive email notifications on this project:

Email address:
Your name:

For other questions or to provide comments on the project, please email: