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Report Explores Acceptance of Concentrating Solar Power in San Luis Valley

July 16, 2010

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado (CU) have jointly published a report that sheds much-needed light on the social acceptance of utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) plants in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. In addition to providing valuable information for Colorado energy policy makers, the report sets an important precedent for future studies—in the United States and elsewhere—that explore the relationship between the renewable energy industry and residents of areas that may host renewable energy power plants.

Published in early July, “Community Response to Concentrating Solar Power in the San Luis Valley”, was written by members of the Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS) at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU).  The report summarizes a study that IBS conducted, which focused on social factors that could facilitate and impede the adoption and implementation of CSP. 

During the winter of 2008-2009, IBS conducted interviews with a sample of 25 CSP-related stakeholders inside and outside the San Luis Valley. Interviews focused on the perceived advantages and disadvantages of siting a hypothetical 100-megawatt CSP facility in the valley, the level of community support and opposition to CSP development, and related issues, such as transmission.

One conclusion of the report was that some proponents of solar energy may be too quick to label local opponents with “Not in My Backyard” or NIMBY syndrome. Rather, the authors recommend to state policy makers that outside stakeholders address community concerns and engage valley residents in decisions related to deployment of CSP projects in the region. Engaging the residents in CSP project and transmission decisions, the authors say, should be taken just as seriously as investing in solar technology.

Funding for the study was provided by NREL and the Energy Initiative—now the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (a joint institute of CU and NREL).

For further information, read the report, posted on the NREL Web site.