Economic advantages identified tended to focus on the potential economic impacts of CSP within the Valley, rather than on effects of renewable energy generally. The 44% of discrete responses categorized as economic (n=67) fell into six somewhat overlapping categories of advantages, discussed below. Most frequently mentioned were potential improvements to the local SLV economy from the siting of a CSP facility there. Two quotes from Valley stakeholders:
…it’ll happen. For everyone [but farmers], this is a no-brainer. If we just had the wherewithal as a little rural community to make this happen and to be sure that the SLV reaps the rewards. how can we make sure that the SLV reaps the rewards? Because someone could build a solar plant and all the money leaves the local economy…we’ll, we’ve done good for our planet, but how can we make this benefit our own economic development?
… our intent to have this valley 100% renewable by the year 2010.
And that could happen in an hour if Tri-State, Xcel, and Rural Electric all agreed that they could get mutual benefit because we could actually purchase enough [renewable energy credits] to have the Valley 100% renewable based on existing energy…
Proportionally more stakeholders outside the Valley than within it referred to economic benefits for the people living in the SLV; it was one of several benefits of CSP that they cited to describe the benefits of siting a CSP facility there.
…the new energy economy has been a huge boom to our state with respect to job creation and economic development at a time when we really need it the most.
They use a local resource so they create economic activity in the Valley. . . It adds another engine to the Valley’s economy. The Valley is pretty much agricultural as I understand it, so you bring in a very clean other business.
…having the ability to create a new sustainable energy industry, also looking at the opportunity that we could generate as much as $2 billion in new investment in rural communities which are so desperately in need of..
On the other hand, Valley stakeholders stressed the idea that renewable energy generally creates jobs and that a local CSP facility could lead to the location of a manufacturing facility in the Valley. This notion was circulating fairly widely within the Valley at the time of the interviews, and appeared to be based on statements made by the CSP industry.
And it would create a large number of construction jobs—about 1,000-2,000 over a two-year period) and a smaller number of maintenance jobs, say 60 to 70 full-time jobs—permanent, goodpaying jobs for the 30- to 50-year life of the plant….
A local informant said:
It’s clean, we have a lot of sun, there are no negative effects and it makes some jobs—and there may be manufacturing jobs—if this were a big site for solar, it could lead to the manufacturing of solar components. That would improve the economy. It would be good for some businesses—contracting with them to place on rooftops, power their business and sell excess to the SLVREC [Rural Energy Cooperative] or Xcel. It’s an advantage for business.
Another economic advantage of renewable energy generally seen as crucial (but not specifically mentioned as an advantage of CSP) is that it could stabilize energy prices at a time of rapidly increasing prices of coal and natural gas.
Fuel price stability would probably be the single most important facet with respect to CSP…the Governor’s Climate Action Plan… calls for a 20% reduction in statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050….it is important to note [that] the current Climate Action Plan models a 200-MWconcentrated solar power facility somewhere in Colorado.
Two other economic advantages were mentioned: (1) providing tax benefits to local counties (which was mentioned more frequently by stakeholders outside the Valley [six mentions] than by ones within the Valley [one mention]) and (2) trapping the dollars in the state’s economy that are now sent out of Colorado. In fact, one Valley interviewee commented that there should be a severance tax for exporting solar electricity from the Valley.
Do you recall the Federal Mineral Lease, or the Severance Tax, things that are going on with all of that? Did you hear the Western slope and Grand Junction and that area talk about their severing the minerals from our. we should get some of the benefit of that here, you’ve heard them say that?
Stakeholder: While solar is not a severable mineral, locating your things on our vistas is use of our resource. Should there be a severance tax and could that tax benefit these communities?
Interviewer: For economic development?
Stakeholder: Yeah, we’ve got the poorest school districts in the state, I mean on and on. Could the social gain be. we have this resource here, and people from the outside want it, they want our sunshine that’s produced in our valley, could we tax for their use of our sunshine to benefit communities located here?”
Although the supporters of CSP development would probably not agree, the prospect of extra local tax benefits tailored to the solar resource combined with the clear air and flat land that would help mitigate the poverty in the San Luis Valley would very likely be welcome to the Valley community.