Aspen Times editorial: Solar farm proposal should get Pitkin County commissioners’ full support
Our valley’s communities have set the tone for change in the past, and we again have the opportunity to be an example of addressing environmental concerns by taking action, no matter how small it seems.
The proposed 35-acre solar farm near the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road (just downvalley from the airport) is in a location that is ideal for the production, the community and most of the surrounding area.
Its greatest drawback, critics say, is it alters the view for those who live and own homes in Brush Creek Village on the hill above Highway 82 and some in Woody Creek. We all will see the farm as we come and go in our lives, but those folks on the hill are the ones who will see the 18,000 panels, which will be situated on the 55-acre parcel, on a daily basis.
All the other arguments are moot. The unused former solid waste industrial land is ideal ground. The location makes it part of the overall community and shows we are thinking forward, and worries of any glare that might come from the panels will be quickly dealt with.
Days of NIMBY-ism in Woody Creek and the valley are over. The stakes are too high as our climate continues to change and be a greater concern worldwide.
Detractors were outnumbered by a chorus of support during the hours of public comment in the Planning and Zoning Commission meetings before the vote earlier this month. There was a comment that it was “out of character for the county.” To the contrary, it is exactly the personality the county should continue to develop.
Our upper valley municipalities have developed plans to address climate concerns. Aspen’s work with reducing greenhouse-gas emissions has gained state and national attention. Snowmass is adding solar panels on city buildings and property. And while those won’t make a huge impact, they show our communities are working on and accepting solutions.
When P&Z board members approved and forwarded the project to the Pitkin County commissioners, they sent a message that has been bolstered by the councils from Aspen and Snowmass who have sent letters of support for the project. The proposal’s next step is for the five-person board of commissioners to review, which likely will come Sept. 25 at first reading, and then more public comment at an October meeting.
For decades our towns have been examples on a number of social fronts, from banning plastic bags to giving rise to an attempt to stem the teen vaping and smoking issue by raising the age to buy those products. And this solar proposal is no different, but on a great scale through the county.
Solar farms have been coming online for years, and we certainly are not at the front of the line of innovation. But we can be another key example of how communities from the mountains down to sea level cannot only talk about climate worries but take steps toward change, no matter how small.
It is also a response by a utilities company — Holy Cross Energy — to hear its customers’ concerns. In a 2018 survey, HCE officials said 69% of its users said they would be interested in “purchasing renewable energy through a community solar system.”
Will this new farm that will power about 1,000 homes per year solve the all of the world’s problems? Of course not. But it shows we again are actively making an effort and willing to give opportunity to solutions.
We urge county commissioners to take all of these factors into account as they discuss and review the proposal and then move forward and approve the solar farm project, which should be one of many we look at in the future.
The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.