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Power companies’ attempts to boost wind and solar power on the Eastern Plains of Colorado are being thwarted by local opposition

Lacie Harman has been watching wind turbines get nearer to her house on Colorado’s Eastern Plains for years. The white towers currently dot the plains from Limon to Wyoming border, but they haven’t reached Washington County, where the family has ranched and farmed for five generations. Harman is attempting to maintain the status quo. She launched Sacred Horizons earlier this year to advocate for rigorous renewable energy development regulations east of Colorado’s Front Range.

Local opponents have flocked to county commission meetings to demand tougher renewable energy regulations, which clean energy proponents have dubbed a “de-facto ban” on wind and solar projects. She testified in August that “we have a moral responsibility to maintain our land and ecology.” “Anything that has the potential to disrupt or permanently devastate the Great Plains should be approached with extreme caution.”

Those attempts ultimately fell short. Washington County Commissioners accepted a looser set of standards than those proposed by the county’s planning and zoning board in early October. It’s a setback, according to Harman, but her organization intends to keep pressing the county to approve stricter regulations. Some Eastern Plains inhabitants are resisting the influx of power corporations.

Local opposition to renewables comes as Colorado’s largest power companies focus their efforts on the Eastern Plains, an area with excellent circumstances for rapid wind and solar power expansion: a constant breeze, sunny sky, and wide-open landscapes with few people.

Colorado’s efforts to prevent climate change could rely on those resources. Xcel Energy has suggested a high-voltage transmission line, valued at $1.7 billion, which would circle Eastern Plains and carry clean power to the Front Range to assist meet greenhouse gas reduction targets. While some neighbors see the plans as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity, Harman is concerned that industrial expansion will degrade a region known for its wheat, corn, and cattle.

Finally, she predicted that future wind towers would be built to generate electricity for individuals who would not have to deal with majority of the local repercussions. “We have to cease sacrificing farm land for the big-city living at some point,” Harman added. Renewable energy development has been faced with local opposition in numerous places, including Washington County. In a survey conducted in 2021 by Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, that does develop legal tactics to boost clean energy, upwards of 100 examples of both state and local legislation restricting new solar and wind projects were discovered across the country.

Local opposition to huge renewable projects, according to Michael Gerrard, the center’s founder and director, is reasonable, but it risks impeding efforts to tackle climate change. Gerrard said he was pleased to see a different strategy in New York, that recently approved legislation to expedite renewable energy project licenses and avoid local opposition.

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