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Green Economics

Solar power battles NIMBY, even in rural Colorado

A wealthy Colorado resident is battling transmission lines that would carry energy from a solar power project.

By Matthew E. KahnGuest blogger / June 4, 2010

SolarFrameWorks in Golden, Colo., is a manufacturer and wholesale distributor of building integrated photovoltaic systems, like this one. A current battle over solar power is happening in rural Colorado, where a wealth landowner is battling transmission lines on his property.

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I know that Dr. Krugman is a very talented man but I never thought of him as the new Brad Pitt. The NY Times reports that he has a cameo in the new hip movie about a rock star traveling across the country to arrive in Los Angeles' sunset strip. This could set quite a precedent for economists. As we expand our brand into fields far from what we were trained in, I think we could enjoy this "expansion of powers". Forget advising Presidents or Software Companies, or conducting research, we could soon be judging American Idol.

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Returning to things I know something about, there is an interesting solar battle brewing in rural Colorado . Colorado has an aggressive 30% Renewable Portfolio Standard for its electric utilities and large scale solar would help to achieve this goal. Now, I don't understand what the penalty is for missing the target.

But, putting this to the side --- a large chunk of the rural area where the solar farm will be built is owned by a very rich guy named "Louis Moore Bacon, bought the 172,000-acre Trinchera Ranch in 2007. He opposes the part of the line that will cross his property."

We all know that once the power is generated in the middle of nowhere --- you need transmission lines to get the power to the people in the cities and those NIMBY powerlines must go somewhere. Mr. Bacon is using his lawyers to block them touching his property as he must view them as nasty and lowering the value of his land.

As the nation starts to want to build more renewable power (wind and solar) in rural areas, these NIMBY issues will keep arising. Will the states try to use eminent domain to take property from people such as Mr. Bacon? Or how much must he be compensated for pulling back his lawyers and permitting the power lines on his land?

Now, such compensation for Mr. Bacon would become part of the cost of generating "green power". How much would this raise the price per kWh?

The Article also has an interesting discussion of the debate within the rural community of whether the "home grown" power should be used to help the community grow or should it be "exported" to the city slicker? An economist would say that resources should be sent to those who value them the most but not everyone here appears to agree with the economists! Maybe we should stick to our comparative advantage (making movie cameo appearances).

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