Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Energy Farming in Colorado, a conservation-filler post

Agriculture is an important part of Colorado and farming has had to evolve in an effort to stay viable with the state’s ever changing needs. The farming of alternative energy is one of those evolutions gaining momentum across the state. The goal is to utilize the natural energy that exists all around us in many forms to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels. As more and more projects are developed we become more self-sufficient. We also help change supply and demand factors for the other types of energy we buy.

Solar Farming

Above: A sizeable pasture of photovoltaic panels grazing on sunrays to generate power. Many communities are establishing similar solar farms in a co-op scenario that absorbs the initial startup costs. The savings is then distributed evenly to all participants by a non-profit entity based in the community. Electric bills range 18-30 dollars where as across the street they pay 75-150 to some regional power conglomo.

Wind Farming

Above: This wind farm generates power for a small village that thinks like a metropolis. This area recently encountered 100mph wind gusts and they only had to run one pinwheel to keep the batteries red hot. In other cases the owner may have installed a more sophisticated transformer and meter that returns surplus energy back to the grid for profit. How sweet is that?

Hydro-Power Farming

Above: Did you know that The Big Thompson River generates power for Estes Park and other communities? Irrigation water flows through a series of tunnels and strategically located hydroelectric turbines that create a few hundred megawatts of power annually. These are hydropower projects on a much smaller scale than say a Glen Canyon Dam but less extreme to the natural waterway.

These are just some of the examples in regards to power farming. Admittedly these examples and others cover only a fraction of the state’s power needs. Fossil fuels still have the advantage of reliability without the sizeable startup costs. Coal burning generators still produce the lion’s share of electricity for Colorado’s overall power usage and most people still drive petrol based vehicles including me. However the landscape is changing and more power options are being brought to the table. Also factoring in the growing participation of ethanol and even bio-fuels made from sources such as used vegetable oil, you can say we have a farmer’s market of energy options in Colorado.

How does all of this apply to fishing?

This question has to come into play at some point for me to maintain any shoreline-cred as a fish blogger. The answers are subtle and obvious at the same time. The clean environment issue is the most obvious even though it feels like a losing battle to save this planet at times. Clean air means cleaner water when clouds form to drop the moisture that develops. We covered this in 1st grade science but a lot of people tend to forget this when profits are concerned. Substantially less water would be used as well as polluted if cleaner sources moved to the forefront. Plenty of room for improvement.

Another, possibly less obvious aspect is the possibility of flooding the market with alternative power that is farmed domestically. Cheaper energy costs and more local jobs is a win-win for any state and Colorado is reaping the benefits already. Colorado has some of the lowest energy costs in the West. Adding more energy jobs to the scene helps the economy stabilize but it just might ease up some of that extra water pressure that I am seeing during the week.

“Oh man. Did all of you guys take the same day off as me to fish?” I ask waiting for my turn at the tailwater casting section.

“Nope.” They reply in unison. “Out of work. Might as well fish.”

Acknowledgements, resources and places I went to get some of this information:


WDSTK3 said...

"...a lot of people tend to forget this when profits are concerned." Good article! I am a fan of co-op community owned type endeavors like this. Natural monopolies just don't lend themselves well to being in the hands of profit making entities.

Shoreman said...

One of the ways we get electricity in California is by gas fired generating stations. These were put in place to add power during peak times in the summer. Since we had a mild summer last year, they don't think we'll need them any more, so they're closing them down. Next time we have a really hot summer and the grid is at it's max, We'll know where to find the guys to restart them. They'll be fishing.