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Colorado's Solar Energy Expansion: Navigating Local Opposition and Environmental Goals


Colorado has set ambitious climate goals, including generating 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2040. Solar energy is a crucial component of this plan, with extensive solar projects being proposed throughout the state. However, these projects have encountered local opposition, highlighting the complex challenges in balancing renewable energy development with community concerns.

Norwood Solar Project: A Case Study

The Norwood Solar Project, a proposed 100-megawatt solar farm in San Miguel County, provides a prime example of the challenges facing solar development. The project has faced opposition from local residents, citing concerns about its impact on agriculture, the rural character of the area, and wildlife.

Agricultural Impacts

One of the primary concerns raised by Norwood residents is the potential impact of the solar project on agricultural land. The project is proposed to be built on approximately 600 acres of land, some of which is currently used for grazing and hay production. Residents fear that the loss of these lands would reduce the county's agricultural capacity.

Rural Character

Another concern expressed by Norwood residents is the potential impact on the area's rural character. The solar project would introduce a large-scale industrial development into a predominantly agricultural and scenic landscape. Residents worry that this would alter the character and quality of life in the community.

Wildlife Impacts

Concerns have also been raised about the potential impact of the solar project on local wildlife. The project site is located near important wildlife migration corridors, and residents worry that the development could disrupt these patterns and harm wildlife populations.

Balancing Opposing Interests

The Norwood Solar Project highlights the complex challenges in balancing the need for renewable energy development with the concerns of local communities. While solar projects offer significant environmental benefits, they can also have potential impacts on local livelihoods and the character of rural areas.

Role of State and Local Governments

State and local governments play a critical role in navigating these challenges. They must work with developers and communities to find solutions that minimize the negative impacts of solar projects while maximizing their benefits.

Addressing Agricultural Concerns

To address agricultural concerns, governments can work with developers to ensure that solar projects are sited on land that is not currently being used for agricultural production. They can also require developers to provide compensation to farmers who lose land to solar projects.

Preserving Rural Character

To preserve rural character, governments can establish setbacks and other requirements that limit the visual impact of solar projects. They can also encourage developers to use low-profile solar panels and other design elements that blend in with the surrounding landscape.

Managing Wildlife Impacts

To manage wildlife impacts, governments can require developers to conduct environmental assessments and implement measures to protect wildlife. These measures could include fencing to prevent animals from entering the project site and providing alternative wildlife corridors.

Encouraging Public Participation

Public participation is essential in ensuring that solar projects are developed in a way that is compatible with local communities. State and local governments should provide opportunities for residents to voice their concerns and participate in the decision-making process.


Colorado's ambitious climate goals require the development of significant solar energy capacity. However, these projects must be developed in a way that balances the need for renewable energy with the concerns of local communities. By addressing agricultural concerns, preserving rural character, managing wildlife impacts, and encouraging public participation, state and local governments can help to ensure that solar projects contribute to a sustainable and equitable future for Colorado.

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