Joey BunchJoey BunchMarch 14, 20182min287

Solar can be as simple as sunshine, or at least the Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center is trying to make it seem so for Colorado towns and cities. The organization put out an interesting fact sheet and tour guide last week, “Ten Ways Your City Can Go Solar.” It's part of the center’s Go Solar campaign to get locals to "go big on solar power."


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 23, 20183min1300

Among the president’s promises a lot of the business community and even plenty of Republicans were hoping he wouldn’t keep was his threatened crackdown on trade. But he has followed through in fits and starts, rattling his saber over aluminum imports here, appointing a free-trade skeptic as his U.S. trade rep there.

Along the way, he has drawn muted protests from those more often in his cheering section than not, like the Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry, the Colorado Farm Bureau and Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

And now, a not-so-muted rebuke from Colorado’s burgeoning solar industry following the Trump administration’s announcement it will slap tariffs on imported solar panels. No thanks, says an industry trade group; such protectionist policies against imports are in fact more hindrance than help, the group maintains. From a press release issued Monday by the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association:

We are disappointed that the Trump administration is siding with a couple of foreign-controlled  solar companies over the broader interests of the robust U.S. solar industry. This unfortunate approach threatens potentially half a billion dollars worth of Colorado solar projects. We believe we can compete in an international marketplace and the success of solar in recent years demonstrates this.

They seem to see it as ironic backfire by an administration whose expressed intent is to bolster American enterprises and their employees and level the playing field. Nevertheless, the association says it’s not about to let the setback derail the industry from its promising trajectory:

… Now that we have the decision, the uncertainty of recent months will give way to creative solutions to keep solar moving forward.

We are excited about the opportunities ahead of us, and with our national partners at the Solar Energy Industries Association, we will move forward and continue to advocate against tariffs.

In other words, thanks all the same, but you’re not helping.


Kara MasonKara MasonJanuary 17, 20183min589

A Pueblo city councilman wants the Steel City to rely completely on alternative energy by 2035, and he’s catching some national attention for it.

Larry Atencio, the representative from Pueblo’s East Side, told Mother Jones what he envisions for the city, which has been in upheaval over energy prices for everal years. Atencio first introduced a resolution to his fellow lawmakers a year ago pledging to propel the city toward complete renewable energy within 17 years.

But Mother Jones asks: Can Pueblo, a place “where there are lots of poor people struggling to pay their utility bills,” do it?

The magazine points out that making a major shift toward renewable energy could mean even higher rates. It’s earlier efforts to rid the city of fossil-fueled electricity that are said to have started the utility rate spiral in the first place:

When Black Hills Energy raised rates, a lot of that money went toward closing dirty power plants and building cleaner ones. The company shut down an outdated gas plant in downtown Pueblo and an old coal plant in Cañon City (the next town to the west). Black Hills was the first utility in Colorado to eliminate coal from its system. It replaced that dirty power with wind turbines, solar panels, and natural gas. As a result, 19 percent of the electrons streaming from Black Hills Energy to Pueblo come from renewables, and the company is on track to reach 30 percent in the next two years. According to (company spokeswoman Julie) Rodriguez, Pueblo’s electric supply is “one of the cleanest in the state.”

Atencio told Mother Jones, as he did local reporters, that the high rates from energy provider Black Hills provided some inspiration for the resolution, which has no legally binding requirements. That’s probably why the resolution has been so popular among residents.

While the Mother Jones piece raises a lot of questions about what may be in store for the Steel City — which is actively putting an emphasis on attracting the solar industry — there haven’t been any actual policy shifts or new ordinances that support the ambitious goal.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningDecember 23, 20173min705

The scientists at Golden's National Renewable Energy Laboratory have received a nearly $2 million federal grant to build a better system to forecast when the sun will be shining, Colorado's U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner announced Friday. The project is part of a Department of Energy program to improve integration of notoriously variable solar-generated electricity into the power grid.


Kara MasonKara MasonDecember 18, 20173min1010

Is the Steel City poised to be Colorado’s Solar City? It’s looking like it. Pueblo County was recently named one of the sunniest places in the county and recognized for its emphasis on growing the solar energy industry.

Last week, Pueblo County earned a Bronze SolSmart plaque for being solar friendly. The award comes from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“We have worked very hard to make it fast, easy and affordable to go solar in Pueblo County. Hopefully, this award and designation will send a signal to solar companies, both commercial and residential, that Pueblo County is open for solar business,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said in a statement.

That hard work may be translating into jobs soon, according to the Pueblo Chieftain. A recent report from the newspaper speculated from state documents that a “700-worker solar factory and solar farm sought by an undisclosed India company” may be eyeing Pueblo. The economic development corporation wouldn’t confirm, however.

Pueblo is currently home to the largest solar farm east of the Mississippi River. It’s located on 900-acres of private land. But a news release from Pueblo County said local government “has been entertaining an offer to build the world’s largest solar farm on Pueblo County soil.” It’s unclear if that’s the same project the Chieftain referenced in its reporting.

The county government has been doing its part to usher in solar energy too, installing solar panels where it can. Earlier this year the city resolved to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Part of that non-binding decision was based on Pueblo’s familiarity with renewable energy — the city is also home to a Vestas manufacturing plant where turbines are constructed — and the high energy prices the city faces.

SolSmart says Pueblo gets almost as much sun as the nation’s sunshine capital, Yuma, Arizona. In November, the city saw more than 20 days with temperatures in the 60s and, of course, the sun was shining.