The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and renewable energy developer Canigou Group have proposed building a $1.5-billion, 971-MW solar project called Sun Bear in the Four Corners region of Colorado. The plan is currently undergoing an environmental assessment with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

Sun Bear would be among the largest U.S. solar farms. The partners have proposed building a solar farm with about 2 million panels on 4,240 acres of the tribe’s land about 9 miles southwest of Towaoc, Colo. They estimate construction would involve between 500 and 1,000 workers and last between two and four years.

Sun Bear would have a capacity to power nearly 215,000 homes and displace between 1.2 million and 1.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to Canigou, which is based in Hong Kong and has a U.S. office in Denver. The plan is to connect to the Western Area Power Administration grid.

“I look forward to seeing the positive impacts of the project come to fruition for the tribe, while also reducing the area’s dependence on fossil fuels,” said Jared Gorby, principal landscape/urban designer at San Diego, Calif.-based RICK Engineering Co., which worked on the conceptual design model. 

Public comments for the environmental assessment are due by Feb. 23. Located in a sparsely vegetated area of the Upper Colorado River Basin, the region is home to Mesa Verde cacti, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists as a threatened species. The partners have proposed having a 200-m “no construction“ buffer around each cactus. 

Assuming the plan is OK’d by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the partners say construction could start later this year. 

In addition to the solar project, Canigou has highlighted the area’s potential for green hydrogen. The company says it is working on a concept and seeking partners for a potential complementary project that could use energy from Sun Bear.