Morgan County Commissioners give green light to #solar farm #ActOnClimate

Photovoltaic Solar Array

From The Fort Morgan Times (Paul Albani-Burgio):

The Morgan County Commissioners voted 3 to 0 Tuesday to approve a conditional use permit and variance for the construction of a solar farm on 20 acres of land near the intersection of County Road 21 and County Road N southeast of Fort Morgan.

The farm is being built by Starlight Energy Corporation on land owned by Peter V. and Karen V. Anderson. Commissioner Mark Arndt said Starlight is proposing to sell the electricity that is generated from the farm to the Morgan County Rural Electric Association to provide power for Morgan County residents but a power purchase agreement has not been finalized. Arndt said Starlight has also talked about Fort Morgan Light and Power as a possible buyer of the electricity that will be generated.

The facility is expected to generate about 2 megawatts of solar power per year and a half of a megawatt of natural gas power. Though the number of homes powered by a megawatt of solar energy depends on average sunshine, electricity consumption, temperature and wind in a given area, it is estimated that one megawatt can power about 650 homes.

Starlight Energy CEO Brian Bentley said the company was hoping to have the solar farm constructed and operational in the first quarter of 2018. Bentley said a portion of the facility that will generate natural gas when not enough solar power is being generated should be operational by the fourth quarter of this year.

The solar industry is creating jobs nearly 17 times faster than the rest of the US economy #ActOnClimate

Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best

From the Climate Reality Project:

In 2016, jobs in the United States solar industry increased nearly 17 times faster than the rate of the overall economy. This was part of a global trend of jobs growing in renewable energy.

Republished from Futurism. Licensed under CC by NC 4.0/Desaturated from original.

The data shows it: We don’t have to choose between good jobs and the future of our planet. A new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reveals that solar jobs in the US (and around the world) are expanding rapidly.

As of November 2016, the American solar industry employed 260,077 workers – an increase of 24.5 percent from 2015. When you crunch the numbers, that means the solar industry is growing just shy of 17 times faster than the American economy as a whole. That’s incredible progress.

So in what areas of the industry are these jobs? The lion’s share (241,900) were in solar photovoltaic (PV). According to IRENA, the worldwide growth in solar PV jobs had to do with “declining costs and supportive policy frameworks in several countries around the world [that] led to a record year for solar in 2016.”

In addition to photovoltaic, an additional 13,000 American solar jobs were in solar heating and cooling, and the remaining 5,200 were in concentrated solar power (CSP).

In terms of job function, more than half of all solar jobs in the US were in installation. Another 15 percent were in manufacturing, with 13 percent in project development, 12 percent in sales and distribution, and a final 6 percent in other areas, including research and development.

It’s important to remember: Not only is the solar industry booming – but the jobs pay well, too. As costs for materials continue to drop, solar jobs remain a well-compensated area for blue-collar workers. Bryan Birsic, CEO of Wunder Capital, said, “It seems to be one of the few areas of high-paying, blue-collar jobs – and you don’t have to learn to code.”

Another sign of improvement? The solar labor force is becoming more diverse, with the number of women workers at 28 percent in 2016, up from 19 percent from 2013. This means more women have jobs in solar than in the conventional energy industry, although women in solar still lag behind their representative 47 percent of the US economy.

A RENEWABLE FUTURE

Solar isn’t the only thriving industry in the US economy right now – the wind industry put about 102,500 people to work in 2016. In fact, wind turbine technician is the single fastest growing occupation in the United States. IRENA projects the industry will grow to 147,000 jobs by 2020.

Here’s the reality: jobs in dirty energy are on the decline as fuel sources become more scarce and less expensive options become available. But people laid off from the fossil fuel industry can find safer, well-playing jobs in clean energy. And as prices continue to drop, all of us can expect to see more and more jobs in clean energy. That’s good for our economy and for our planet.

@SenBennetCO: #Colorado Leading the Way in Community Solar

Graphic via Idaho Power.

Here’s a blog post from Colorado Senator Michael Bennet:

As Washington careens from manufactured crisis to inane distraction, global temperatures continue to rise, and the need for more jobs and higher wages increases. More and more, it falls on communities to take the lead in fighting climate change and expanding our clean energy economy.

Solar power offers one of our best opportunities to do so. Despite wild swings in our national politics, solar power has grown by an average of 70 percent each year over the last decade, while the cost of installation has fallen by nearly as much.

Despite these gains, nearly half of U.S. households and businesses cannot host a solar power system, either because they rent, share the space, or have a layout unsuitable for installation. Solar can never reach its full potential until we find a way to reach these consumers.

Our best answer is community solar.

In essence, community solar allows more Americans to enjoy the benefits of clean energy without having to install rooftop panels on their home or business. It does that by converting an unused or marginal space into a solar field and then allowing locals to buy a share of its energy production to offset their consumption.

With community solar, those who cannot afford solar installation, don’t own their home, or live or work somewhere that can’t accommodate a solar system, can still choose clean, renewable energy.

Community solar is one of the most promising developments in renewable energy. It expands access to clean energy resources and helps households and businesses save on their electricity bills. Colorado is leading the way in this new model, but we have only begun to realize its promise.

That is why this week, I introduced legislation to make permanent a Department of Energy program to promote community solar, especially in low-income communities.

The bill also encourages the federal government — the largest employer and consumer in America — to participate in community solar projects.

I have seen the promise of community solar in Colorado. We were the first state to pass legislation on community solar, and in just a few years, we have installed enough community solar to power thousands of homes across our state. Today, over 7,000 Coloradans work in solar, many in community solar projects. For us, this is not some Bolshevik fantasy; it is a proven and profitable enterprise.

One of my favorite places is Pueblo. The Pueblo County School District is the lowest funded district in the state. It’s also the largest, in terms of geographic size. So it was an unlikely candidate to become the first District in the state to source 100 percent of its electricity from solar.

It didn’t have the capital for a major installation. Plus, a lot of schools in the district lacked the right layout for rooftop panels.

That’s where the Clean Energy Collective came in. Working with the District, the Collective built Roofless Solar arrays in town. Now, kids study with lights powered by the sun. Teachers fire up projector screens charged by clean, renewable energy.

In the first year alone, the District saved $35,000. Over the life of the program, those savings will exceed $2 million dollars.

That’s enough to buy a Chromebook for seven out of ten kids in the District. It’s enough to pay all 32 employees at Prairie Winds Elementary for a year.

Stories like this are why community solar has boomed across Colorado.

In the end, this is not just about individuals having a financial stake in a particular solar project; it’s about all of us having a stake in the future, recognizing that — when we come together as a community — we can seize opportunities we once thought were out of reach and make smart investments for tomorrow.

As global temperatures rise and renewable energy provides more job opportunities, we turn to communities for the clean energy leadership we need, now more than ever.

Pagosa Springs sixth grade student renewable energy day

San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (David Smith)

Meeting this demand with fossil fuels will be increasing dif cult as reserves become depleted. More important, we know that massive burning of fossil fuels damages our environment. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, provide an inexpensive and clean alternative to burning fossil fuels.

To prepare the next generation for this change, Kristin Hentschel, Pagosa Springs Middle School sixth-grade science teacher, orga- nized a Renewable Energy Day.

This project was funded by a $1,000 grant from the Foundation for Archuleta County Education (FACE).
The 120 sixth-grade students were divided into eight groups which visited eight renewable energy projects. Parents and com- munity scientists manned each of the eight stations.

At the end of the day, the stu- dents wrote about their experiences…

“I liked all the stations. This was perfect.” — Daniel B.

Gov. Hickenlooper town hall recap

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

“Colorado basically has the number one economy in America,” the governor remarked, stressing that the demands for agricultural products will remain one of our economic mainstays as it did to help the country out of the Great Depression decades ago. Hickenlooper acknowledged the disparity of growth between the Front Range and rural areas of the state, explaining that he wants to see more technological growth in rural areas including more access to broadband capabilities in the smallest towns in the state.

The governor addressed changing technologies as well, “Automation has begun to eliminate a lot of jobs in the U.S.,” he explained, adding that this change can foster tremendous wealth in some companies which flows upwards to the top 1% earnings bracket. “I’d like to see a way to recoup some of that wealth. I believe the top 1% has an obligation to help create and develop new industries; not as a hand-out, but as a way of sustaining job growth for new sectors of the economy.” The governor also mentioned employing the new Jumpstart program which can provide tax incentives to new businesses after they have been in operation for several years…

John Stulp gave a brief description of future water demands in Colorado, given the state’s growing population. “We’re going to see as many people move to the state over the next 30 years as there will be born from current residents,” he explained, saying that will double the current 5,000,000 residents by the year 2050. Stulp said this will call for more efficient uses of energy and conversation measures as well as planning ahead for additional water storage throughout Colorado.

Regarding the development of more solar and wind power in Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper said it is remarkable that for the first time in almost 50 years, the country will be in a position to be a net exporter of energy by 2018. He said we are facing a challenge with the construction of transmission lines in the region. “The city doesn’t build them, the county doesn’t either. It has to go through the Public Utilities Commission and that is a long and involved process and they are held responsible for making the most cost-effective decisions for their customers.” The governor said he believed the state will see increased construction and use of wind and solar power in the years to come.

The meeting was attended by numerous elected officials as well as representatives of local government and civic organizations. When asked if the topics covered in the public meeting were any different from an earlier private meeting the governor held with some of those officials, the Prowers County Commissioners said some other topics included the on-going issues with conservation easements and the impact CDPHE rulings would have on small communities with regard to maintenance of their landfills.

Southwestern utilities back down from rooftop solar fight — @HighCountryNews @ClimateReality #ActOnClimate

Denver, June 8, 2015. Photo credit Climate Reality Project.

From The High Country News (Elizabeth Shogren):

Not long ago, major electric utilities in much of the Southwest seemed bent on chasing rooftop solar companies out of the region. They saw the booming industry as a threat to their profits and sought rate changes that would make solar panels less financially attractive to homeowners. The electric companies advocated slashing the compensation those customers get for sending their excess power to the grid and adding new fees to their electric bills.

Because the electric companies are monopolies, state regulators have to approve such changes. In late 2015, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada set new rates that were so unfavorable to solar customers that they nearly snuffed out the residential solar business in the state. The number of households applying to connect solar panels to the grid dropped from a peak of nearly 3,000 in August 2015 to just 14 in July the next year. The biggest solar installation companies left the state, laying off thousands of workers.

But that’s not the end of the story. The public was outraged, and its objections resulted in a surprising shift: gradual rollback of the commission’s anti-solar decision…

Apparently big electric companies are learning that given the broad popularity of solar in the sunny desert region, they will have to accommodate rooftop solar instead of trying to kill it. This reflects the growing political might of the solar industry as it’s seen as a key job creator in much of the Southwest.

Please consider coming by the Community Building at Thornton’s Community Park on May 16th. I’ll be speaking about the climate crisis as part of the Climate Reality Project. Children are welcome. We’ve already baked in a lot of uncertainty about the future for them. The presentation revolves around three questions: Should we act; Can we act; and, Will we act? I’ll bring you up to date on the engineering effort around renewable energy.

Details:

  • What: Climate Change is Water Change: Colorado Update
  • Where: Thornton Community Park Community Building (Near the swimming pool), 2211 Eppinger Blvd, Thornton, CO 80229
  • When: Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
  • About the Climate Reality Project:

    With glaciers melting, seas rising, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record coming this century, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. But with solar, wind, and other clean energy solutions becoming more affordable and accessible every year, neither has the way forward. And with 195 countries signing the historic Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gases the world is finally united in working to seize the promise of renewables and create a safe, sustainable, and prosperous future powered by clean energy.

    What’s in the way? Powerful fossil fuel companies and their government allies spreading fear and misinformation.

    Led by Vice President Gore and CEO Ken Berlin, we’re here to change that. We connect cutting-edge digital media, global organizing events, and peer-to-peer outreach to share the truth about climate change and the solutions in our hands today with people everywhere. And with our more than 10,000 Climate Reality Leader activists building support for pro-climate policies at every level, and millions joining us to accelerate the global transition to clean energy, we have the chance to stop climate change and together create a future we can be proud of. We’re not about to waste it.