News / USA

    In Colorado, Solar Industry Faces Challenges

    Zulima Palacio

    Colorado's San Luis Valley, an alpine desert, is rapidly becoming a leading producer of solar energy in the United States. The sun shines more than 340 days a year in the San Luis Valley. So the solar industry is booming here.

    Several solar facilities in the region generate electricity on an industrial scale and others are under construction. Under Colorado law, 30 percent of power used in the state must be generated from renewable sources by 2020. But given the demand for electricity, Alamosa County's year-round sunshine still won't be enough.

    Nick Thiel, plant manager of San Luis Solar Ranch, said, “We are sitting on 220 acres [89 hectares] with roughly 110,000 panels, equivalent to a 30-megawatt site,” said Thiel.

    The company says that's enough to supply power to more than 7,500 homes.  

    “In the mornings, when the sun rises over those mountains, their sensors attract the sun, so they move in concordance with the sun. In the morning they face the east, and as the day falls, it will follow all the way to the west until it sets,” said Thiel.

    In this valley, solar farms are expanding rapidly, making Colorado the third-largest solar energy producing state in the US, after California and New Jersey.

    But the sun is not enough.

    Alamosa County, one of the largest in the region, has six solar farms. County Commissioner Darius Allen said 650 hectares have been allocated for solar power and more could be dedicated, if the infrastructure were better.    

    “Right now, the transmission lines we have in here is pretty much maxed out,” said Allen.

    But that's not the only problem. San Luis Valley is an agricultural area producing potatoes, grain, alfalfa and pasture for cattle. Farmers are concerned about land going to the solar industry.

    Steve Vandiver is General Manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. He said, “If agriculture goes away here, we have nothing left."

    Agriculture in this valley is under another threat. The land, rivers and aquifers under the Valley are drying out. That also affects solar power.

    “Some of the bigger plants - the solar thermo plants - take a significant amount of water. You have to dry up a lot of farm land in order to create a water supply that is large enough to support those types of plants,” said Vandiver.

    Solar panels also need to be washed because dust accumulates on them.

    The water shortage has forced authorities to draw up plans that will close hundreds of wells and retire agricultural land.

    “Valley wide we are probably looking at 60 to 80,000 acres [24,000 to 32,000 hectares] that will have to come out of production in the long term,” said Vandiver.

    Farmers are concerned. George Whitten is his family's third generation on this organic ranch.

    Recently, he and his wife Julie Sullivan, an environmental activist and educator, recruited neighbors in a bid to fight the construction of an 800-hectare solar farm adjacent to their land. They won their case, and the project failed.  

    “I never thought I would be fighting solar energy, and so it was very bizarre,” said Sullivan.

    “It’s giant parabolic mirrors. They are the size of a drive-in theater, and there were going to be 9,000 of those right along that power line,” said Whitten.

    The Whittens say industrial sites - even solar ones - should not replace agriculture.

    They say instead of saving energy, Americans are trying to figure out how to use more.


    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.