Living up against the foot of the Rocky Mountains, you forget that almost half of the state of Colorado is flat, treeless, and rural. That's exactly where I found myself today, following Chris Hamilton and Ben Jones, both from Vibrant Solar, from site to site in Fowler, Colo.
Vibrant is currently wrapping up a pretty sizable project in Fowler, installing panels on the town's golf course, a vacant school (that is slated to become a municipal building), and a cemetery, to run the site's water pumps.
Oddly enough, on my drive to meet Hamilton and Jones, Colorado's own Tom Tancredo, the Constitution Party's gubernatorial candidate, was on Colorado Public Radio, talking about clean energy and our current governor's push to make the industry a viable presence in the state.
Although Tancredo is known for rather hyperbolic statements (it wasn't long ago that he said, to wild cheers at a Tea Party rally, that there should be a civil literacy test before people are allowed to vote), today he was low-key, until he made the statement that the green energy industry won't provide any jobs, and the state should reinvest in mining (this is a paraphrase, of course, but seriously, he said this).
We spent most of the day in Fowler at the closed Diven cannery, an enormous steel structure straddling the town's railroad. The cannery closed in 1998.
Jones, who is also CEO of a solar start-up called Helios Solar, is looking to use the old cannery as a manufacturing plant for his company's new product (more on this in Monday's feature). The project would bring tons of jobs to the area, and could net Colorado a fair share of the concentrated solar market: no small feat.
But today, it's still a cannery, and if we subscribe to that idea that green energy is a bust, the building will remain an old cannery and nothing more.
Unfortunately, for people like Tancredo, there is a belief that clean energy is an oxymoron, and we should all get over it. It's not really about jobs or energy for them (this is a rather fallacious statement, I know). Frankly, it sounds more like an association issue; the naysayers associate clean energy with liberalism, or hippies, or the elite (someone, please define this term one day. Pundits love to use it, and it means next-to-nothing). When we think of miners in coal smeared hats, it's romantic, American, tough. But when we think of green energy, it's a bit intangible. Do you see a job-creating, viable industry or flower children dancing in a field of windmills made of hemp?
Your answer may just be indicative of your grasp on reality.
Tune in on Monday for a full piece outlining what's going on in Fowler, Colo., and what is lurking over the horizon for Hamilton, Jones, and Colorado as a whole.
Pictured: Fowler's water tower. I realize that there are, in fact, trees in this shot. Towns plant trees. What do you want from me? The surrounding fields are, however, treeless.