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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

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.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid