San Luis Valley Solar and Agriculture Forum


ALAMOSA — About 25 people attended the San Luis Valley Solar Energy and Agriculture Forum on Nov. 28, at the San Luis Valley Water Conservation District in Alamosa. The forum was focused on farmers and ranchers regarding the possibilities of combining agricultural and energy production, a technique known as agrivoltaics. The forum was sponsored by Colorado Open Lands (COL), a non-profit land trust.

The forum began with Erin Minks from Senator Michael Bennet's office speaking about the history of solar development in the Valley. An early solar facility in Alamosa County is the Sun Edison facility that Monks described as, "kind of the first big, large scale solar farm in the Valley." That facility changed ownership to TerraForm Power and is now owned by Brookfield Renewable, a global producer of hydro, solar, and wind energy with over 8,000 power-generating facilities.

Cleave Simpson with the Rio Grande Water Conservation District spoke about current factors in the Valley water, agriculture, and energy landscape. Simpson announced that he recently became a board member of Colorado Open Lands. Simpson is also a Colorado State Senator.

Byron Kominek from Jack's Solar Garden and the non-profit Colorado Agrivoltaics Learning Center, spoke about his efforts to integrate agricultural production and solar energy production on his family farm in Boulder County.

Kominek has 3,200 solar panels on about 4-acres of land that produce 1.2 MW of electricity, enough to power about 300 homes.

Kominek's operation is described as, "part solar farm, part garden and a whole lot more," incorporates solar energy, farming, education, beekeeping.

The Colorado Agrivoltaics Learning Center hosts high school groups, community members, and private groups to "showcase the future of solar plus agriculture."

The forum also included presentations from Colorado State University faculty members Alan Knapp, Gene Kelley, and graduate student Matt Sturchio who discussed research needs and opportunities.

Colorado Open Lands is a land trust founded in 1981 to work with private landowners to conserve agriculture, wildlife habitat, and scenic vistas. The trust holds conservation easements on private lands. The land trust is a private non-profit organization with a mission to help landowners conserve properties with outstanding natural and agricultural values according to the trust.

As previously reported in the Valley Courier, Alamosa County recently applied for a U.S. Department of Energy grant to study the possibility of constructing a new transmission line in the Valley that could both provide a backup to the current one transmission line and facilitate the export of future solar-produced energy.