Colorado Laws Mandate Change in Energy Production
In 2021, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law a suite of bills related to greenhouse gas emissions and energy production. The bills address streamlining solar energy permitting, encouraging other types of heating and cooling, renewable energy workforce careers, and more. This new suite of laws to encourage alternative energy production is not a new concept for Colorado and its residents. In fact, Colorado was the first state to enact a renewable energy standard (RES) in 2004. The energy standard required utilities to transmit specific percentages of energy from renewable sources.
Some Colorado Landscapes Are Ideal for Solar Energy Production
An article in Forbes about solar energy stated, "...the state of Colorado is one of the best states for solar energy." Colorado's elevation, weather, and broad expanses of flat land make it an ideal area for solar energy generation. In addition to those features, portions of Colorado's landscape are unsuitable for crop production and even marginal for livestock grazing. One such area is in Morgan County, Colorado, where the soil is comprised mostly of sand. In this specific area, the soil is so sandy that decades ago, water engineers decided to abandon the idea of creating a reservoir in the floodplain because the ground simply could not hold water.
Colorado Communities Benefit from the Energy They Produce
When local electric utilities purchase energy from out of the area, the money they spend benefits the community where the energy is produced. By generating electricity in their own backyard, communities can benefit from the tax revenue generated from the sale of power. If these communities are also utilizing the energy produced, they are also keeping additional funds in the area.
Not In My Back Yard
While the residents of the state of Colorado have embraced new energy technologies, there are some residents who support solar energy but do not approve of it in their communities. The term NIMBY is an acronym for the phrase "Not in my backyard." The Oxford Dictionary defines NIMBY as:
"A person who objects to the siting of something perceived as unpleasant or hazardous in the area where they live, especially while raising no such objections to similar developments elsewhere."
The Energy Education website says the following about what it calls, "Not in my backyard syndrome":
"The term describes people who act in their own interests to oppose nearby development of a technology or service from which they benefit and would otherwise support…While self-centered attitudes may play some role in local opposition to development, concerns may also arise over the planning process or other details of a project." And:
"Research has shown that NIMBY attitudes are primarily present during the planning stages of a project…The projects gained greater acceptance after they were completed, however, with 66% of residents showing support in a post-development survey."
Not In My Back Yard Happens in Food Production Too
As developers of agriculture, at AGPROfessionals, we have seen this phenomenon take place in agriculture as well. Whether the issue is affordable food or farm-to-fork options, objections sometimes arise when it comes to producing the food people are requesting. These objections can be frustrating for innovative producers working hard to meet the demand for nutritious food, to either make it affordable for everyone, or to provide a boutique, more direct, food-buying experience. What happened to a producer family in Missouri working to provide the ultimate farm-to-fork experience for consumers and restaurants is a classic example. For more information about the Missouri family, there's a link to an article at the bottom of the page titled, "Valley Oaks Steak Company". Whether it is renewable energy or agriculture, the concept of "not in my backyard" doesn't help.
It is understandable and expected that residents will have concerns about large projects in their community. Questions from residents range from the initial planning and decision process to construction and operations. It is important to remember that the policymakers in your communities live there too. This is why many counties and city municipal districts have developed a written plan for the future of their community as well as policies and regulations that must be adhered to during all phases of any project, from the planning and permitting process to operations and beyond. It is important to know that projects, from agricultural facilities, and manufacturing plants to housing developments and energy production all go through a rigorous process that is often years in the making before plans are approved and the construction phase commences. The following bullets are a high-level list of some of the steps that are taken:
• Evaluation of site options
• Due diligence and feasibility studies
• Environmental and wildlife impact assessments
• Soils and other environmental tests
• Property procurement
• Land surveys
• Site plans – engineering for infrastructure, including utilities, road access, waterways, drainage, and more
• Building plans – engineering of structures
• Land use permits
What You Can Do
If we want renewable energy, which is what the lawmakers we elected to represent us have determined is best for our state, we are going to have renewable energy generation in our communities. However, this fact of our future does not mean that we can't have a constructive voice in the process. The following are steps you can take to make sure you are an informed member of your community:
- Be Informed - Don't rely on second-hand information. Attend city and county meetings yourself to stay abreast of proposed projects and the status of projects in process.
- Know the Steps That Have Been Taken - When new projects are proposed, there is an extensive planning process project owners must step through. The plans and reports they submit are part of the public record and are accessible by visiting your county planning office. By reviewing the information for yourself, you might be surprised to learn about all the aspects that have been considered and addressed.
- Communicate - Welcome outreach efforts by the project owners. This is a perfect opportunity to communicate with them directly, express your concerns, share information, and have questions answered.
- Be Proactive - Don't wait until the last minute to communicate with your county or city representatives about your support, suggestions, or concerns. Being proactive and communicating allows city and county planners, representatives, and project developers to carefully consider your community's needs, provide concerned community members with information, and adjust if appropriate.
With Colorado's mandates, and the new bills signed into law in 2021, new renewable energy projects are the future of our state's landscape. There are going to be projects where land use is changed to accommodate these projects.
A constructive, cooperative, and collaborative approach will help ensure our communities benefit and thrive.
Colorado HB 23-1272 HERE
Colorado HB 21-261 HERE
Colorado News Online article about clean energy measures HERE
Farm Progress article, How to Navigate Wind and Solar Leases, HERE
Forbes article HERE
Valley Oaks Steak Company article HERE
Daily Yonder article HERE