Building a solar farm to save our ecosystems |

Building a solar farm to save our ecosystems

Pitkin County needs solar power! We are privileged to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. If we want it to remain that way, we need projects that are part of a climate solution.

Heat waves in Europe, hurricanes in Texas and sea-level rise in Miami may seem like far-off problems, but climate change is impacting Colorado and already a visual part of our backyards.

Ride the bus through Snowmass Canyon and look at all of the dead Douglas fir trees killed by bark beetles. Take a walk on the Sunnyside Trail and notice the thousands of aspen trees that have succumbed to “sudden aspen decline.” Stare at the miles of burned forests above Basalt. In a warmer world, this is what our future will look like. Anthropogenic climate change continues to make all of these things more likely. The beautiful Colorado forest views that many of us enjoy are turning brown. The crisp mountain air is becoming increasingly smokey.

Over the past 30 years, the average annual temperature in Colorado has increased by 2 °F. The three most significant droughts in the past 123 years have occurred since 2000. Between 1955-2016 Colorado’s spring snowpack has decreased at almost all 78 of our long-term monitoring sites (including on Independence Pass). This may seem like a list of abstract numbers, but these changes are having very real impacts in Pitkin County.

As a community, we have an opportunity to embrace a 5 MW solar array that will provide 1,000 homes clean, renewable energy. We can send a message to hundreds of thousands of visitors that solar is part of a beautiful landscape and this is what the world should emulate. We can choose to look at solar panels or we can choose dying forests no longer able to support the wildlife and ecosystems we all value and need. If we want to preserve our valley, we need to “walk the walk” and be leaders in green energy. This means more renewable energy in our backyards. For Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the choice is clear: our valley needs locally-generated, clean, renewable energy… and this is only the beginning!

Adam McCurdy

Forest Programs director, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies