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Parachute solar flowers in Colorado. (Image: John via Flickr)
Parachute solar flowers in Colorado. (Image: John via Flickr)

Editorial: Placing limitations on solar installations makes no sense

Sometimes things just don’t add up.

Apparently, the Weld County commissioners are thinking of requiring all solar facilities to sit on land zoned industrial.

So, if a farmer in Weld chooses to allow a solar company to use his or her property to build a solar farm, this ordinance would block it.

In countless cases, our commissioners have fought long and hard for property rights. The fact they would even consider a move like this makes no sense.

As we look further into this, we find the proposed ordinance also would not allow solar companies to buy land zoned agriculture for a solar farm.

As of right now a company called SunShare, a small solar company out of Denver, is working with Xcel Energy. They have plans for three small solar facilities next year in Weld called community gardens.

These community solar farms are normally 6-9 acres, producing 1-2 megawatts of energy. This is enough to power around 190 homes. These farms are unique in that they allow people in more urban settings — say, apartment dwellers — to reap the benefits of solar.

These residents buy into off-site community gardens and have money knocked off their power bills.

Related: Backers of wind power, solar seeking Nebraska tax credits

With as much oil and gas development as there is in the area, and with the development of wind farms primarily on northern Weld, it leaves us scratching our heads regarding the commissioners’ concerns about solar. With so many areas zoned for agriculture, this ordinance would make it nearly impossible for community solar farms to exist in the county.

It would seem to us there is no ecological or economical detriment to these proposed projects. And to simply not allow landowners to use their property as they see fit seems to go against what these commissioners claim they stand for.

With so many dry acres in Weld that don’t have access to irrigation, why shouldn’t a farmer or landowner in the county have the option to rent out or sell their property to a solar company?

The commissioners seem split on the proposal with Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer pushing hard for the change.

Her claim is oil drilling has to be done in a specific place because that’s where the oil is.

“It’s a natural resource, and it is where it is,” Kirkmeyer said. “You can’t really zone oil and gas.”

With Colorado priding itself on how much sunshine it gets every year, we would argue that solar in this area deserves the same treatment as oil and gas as well as wind energy. The sun is a natural resource, and this is where it is.

And if a farmer can supplement his or her income by adding a solar installation, doesn’t that benefit everyone involved? The farming business gets the financial boost it needs to keep going. The solar business has an opportunity to operate on land at a cheaper price than land zoned as industrial, and consumers in the city who choose to participate get a discount on their power bill.

With so many positive aspects and barely a negative to be found, we wonder why the commissioners are even thinking about such an ordinance.

(c)2015 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)

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