In the San Luis Valley, Solar Power Is Challenged as an Environmental Steward

November 29 2010, 3:00 PM

Billionaire Louis Moore Bacon is in a pitched battle against energy-company plans to expand solar-power transmission lines in southern Colorado. But he says his opposition to Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association's plans to run power lines across his 171,400-acre Trinchera Ranch, which includes Mount Blanca, isn't just a NIMBY issue; he's trying to protect a "state and national treasure." Bacon tells The Denver Post via e-mail, "Having helped many others in their fights against outside, profit-oriented polluters, I couldn't shirk this battle when I know there is so much at stake for the San Luis Valley residents, the range, the environment, the animals, and for all of Colorado." The transmission project is supported by Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates and some local officials in the impacted area. "The losers here are the people of Colorado who have clearly expressed their desire for us to develop solar potential," claims Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz.

Meanwhile, the state will soon be home to a new 30-megawatt solar plant near Alamosa—the world's largest such plant, writes Public News Service. Larry Schweiger of the National Wildlife Federation says the challenge now "is to make sure we do these things in a way that is environmentally sensitive. Let's not repeat the mistakes we made with fossil fuel." The plant is on private land and is expected to be operational by the end of 2012.