Threat of Atmel plant closure prompts city council to rescind support of solar farm, on Earth Day

COLO. SPRINGS- I told the gentleman from Atmel who trolled the city council meeting, this would be my headline: ATMEL KILLS SOLAR IN COLORADO SPRINGS. Prompted by his threat to ship Atmel jobs to Malaysia if a 0.25% utilities rate hike went into effect, the Colorado Springs City Council voted today, inauspiciously the day after Earth Day, to rescind their minuscule subsidy of a community solar farm program. Apparently Atmel is the city’s largest utilities customer, so when Atmel whines, CSU grovels. Actually their rep turns up at every discussion of renewable energy or water restrictions and he’s against everything. Colorado Springs is the coal ash belching, Fountain Creek polluting, burnt foothills, diminished community services, low-tax haven it is today thanks to Atmel and its Tea Party posse.

Working a token solar power start-up into the utility grid would result in a rate increase of 10¢ for monthly energy bill of $100, or 60¢ per $200. Semiconductor manufacturer Atmel faced a potential $6,000 increase per month, enough to jeopardize the multimillion dollar operation according them. It’s the same Powerpoint presentation they conjure when the city’s inquiring about wind turbines or scrubbers on the aging coal plant or solar or water rate hikes.

An Atmel facility in California sources its energy from solar, at a rate of 16¢ per whatever, but our local rate of 3¢ is too high for our local Atmel. He kept saying he was “for solar” but when pressed he answered “but not in Colorado Springs.” You wonder if his headquarters knows their Atmel guy is being such a regressive douche. I plan to inquire.

The vote today meant that Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) will not implement its tariff planned for May 1st, which solar startup SUNSHARES had been counting on for its financing.

The public turnout at today’s meeting was two thirds in favor of solar power and one third against. (Measured by body weight the two sides were equal. It’s probably no surprise that environmental minded citizens know how to eat sustainably too. The two factions kept to separate sides of the room which was how I formed my size-ist observation.) The pro-solar folk represented themselves, common citizens, but those speaking against solar bore titles with advocacy groups like Americans For Prosperity, Citizens for Affordable Energy, and, get this, the Clean Energy Coalition, which bills itself as the largest advocacy network for renewable energy, but surprise, they’re against solar! Well, not one dared to say they were against solar, in fact they all prefaced their remarks with “I’m for solar, but–“. Their coordinator, noxious AFP henchman Sean Paige explained that climate science is “faith based” and in fact, resistance to fracking is also faith-based. All the anti talking points were boilerplate climate denial crap. Manufacturing solar panels pollutes (what about manufacturing fossil fuel equipment?), renewable energy costs jobs, yada yada. There was even an economics professor from Colorado College, who asserted that solar power was bad for the economy. Weird.

Of course the new slate of city councilors bought it. What has already emerged to be a cabal of mouth breathers conceived of this plan yesterday, EARTH DAY, to rescind their initial foray into solar energy, and today they entertained informed comments from the public and ignored them.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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