Residents in Montezuma County and surrounding areas are frustrated with solar development in the community. They cite loss of views, loss of wildlife habitat, land degradation, and construction noise and dust as main concerns. But, agrivoltaics, the combination of agriculture and solar, could provide a potential solution for concerns and give farmers another source of income. By Ilana Newman. This story is sponsored by Boon’s Family Thai Barbecue and Northern Edge Casino
Renewable energy in the form of solar panels may seem like a no-brainer for sunny Southwest Colorado, but for some Montezuma County residents recent solar development on agricultural land is leaving them frustrated. A possible solution is agrovoltaics the combination of agriculture with solar power, balancing the agricultural nature of the area with renewable energy sources. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Truwest Auto and Keesee Motors. I'm Connor Shreve.
Some of the prime agricultural land is also the prime land for solar energy production. Because it's flat, it gets a lot of sun. You know, the worry is that that will be taken and will be gradually just decreasing the amount of land that's available for production agriculture.
In Montezuma County, residents who live adjacent to solar development are frustrated with the noise of construction, the views over solar fields and the impact on wildlife. Perry Will state senator for District five and former wildlife officer agrees solar fields reduce wildlife habitat, especially for animals like deer and elk that need fields and sage brush for critical winter range.
We need to keep all of our lands functional. We need to have all of our lands able to sequester water as well as carbon. We need to have those lands be able to either be used for conservation for wildlife or be used by people for livelihoods, or like at a minimum, having ecosystem services out there with the water and soil and carbon sequestration. And a lot of solar arrays when they're built have none of those considerations. And we have well over 10,000 acres of solar panels in Colorado, as far as I understand, and we're going to have millions of acres of solar panels across our country in the coming years. I think well over a 100,000 acres of solar panels are likely in the future of Colorado. And it'd be unfortunate if all that land just goes to dirt or weeds or gravel or whatever, any degraded shape. Even if the land was degraded beforehand, it doesn't mean that same for land management needs to continue.
Agrovoltaics, the combination of solar and agriculture, when done correctly, could help the farming industry in Colorado. Examples of agrovoltaics include grazing cattle under solar panels, planting crops under panels or at its most basic, planting wild flowers for pollinators so that the land does not go to waste. But many of these options involve raising the solar panels higher than average, which does add cost to development.
We put rovers on Mars, like hell, we can't build a solar array a little bit higher for the cows, right? It's not like it's building the Eiffel Tower or anything. It's basic engineering of how to elevate the panels. It's all about cost and the willingness of our society to front that cost to elevate the panels so that we can have continuous use of that land. It's a financial question. It's not a engineering question.
Dove Creek resident, Colton Schlegel, is working on starting an agrovoltaics vineyard that will pave the way for more agrovoltaic development in southwest Colorado. Schlegel envisions a coalition of local farmers collaborating on an voltaic or solar farm with participants receiving direct compensation for the power instead of only leasing land to developers. Schlegel is hoping to start building his agrovoltaic vineyard next summer. You can learn more about this story and others at montezumalocal.news. Thank you for watching this edition of The Local News Network. I'm Connor Shreve.