Renewable energy needs a push in rural communities | TheFencePost.com

Renewable energy needs a push in rural communities

Samantha Fox
for The Fence Post

There's opportunity to integrate energy into agriculture, but it will take a number of individuals to really take the leap.

During a panel at the Colorado Farm Show on Jan. 25, five experts in the field of agriculture and energy discussed the positives for the agricultural sector, along with some of the challenges.

"There hasn't been a greater opportunity for energy in ag as there is now," said John Stulp, who served as the agriculture commissioner for Colorado from 2007-2011.

Stulp said he's seen energy harnessed on farms throughout the years, and we're at a time when farmers can make the next leap in energy. He recalled his grandfather who "raised most of his energy" because he grew the feed for his "horse power."

“There hasn’t been a greater opportunity for energy in ag as there is now,”

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Eventually the horses were replaced with tractors, and Stulp said there was a big debate about using rubber around the wheels. At the time, it seemed ridiculous. Rubber isn't as sturdy as steel. But it turned out to be an energy savor.

The same is being looked at now with renewable energies, such as wind and solar, but there isn't that sense of urgency. In Weld County, especially, with the abundant oil and gas industry already partnering with agriculture, there isn't a big sense of urgency to take the initiative.

Despite that, Jim Park, a farmer from Kersey, Colo., installed a 25-kilowatt hydropower system in eastern Colorado — something more common on the Western Slope. Park recalled when he went to apply for a permit, knowing it would be necessary. Once he explained his intention, he was initially denied a permit, but eventually was able to get one.

That's only one possible obstacle; another simply comes down to land use. While pipelines through property can reduce the amount of productive land, the same can happen with other renewable sources. Marc Arnusch, a farmer from Pleasant Valley, Colo., said he knows of a wheat farmer who stopped growing wheat on some of his land after turbines were installed because he couldn't have a plane fly over areas to drop pesticides.

But the possibilities seemed to outweigh the setbacks for producers. For one, opening the door to alternative energy can help bring business and tax revenue to struggling rural communities.

Plus, adding these communities, Stulp said, would be a "win/win" if they look at what a long-term investment in the energy sector can do. He pointed to global warming and how that affects water sources — although he didn't mention the growing strain on water in Colorado with more municipalities also trying to draw from more water sources.

To him, it goes back to energy.

"It all gets tied together," he said.❖

— Samantha Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at sfox@thefencepost.com, (970) 392-4410 or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.