Aspen just had its first “OK, Boomer” mic-drop moment on Wednesday, when a local youngster stood up in front of a packed house at the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners meeting and flipped the tables on the “adults” in the room as they voiced their opposition to the solar farm. Sorry, I missed the meeting; I was up on a roof with a leaf blower that morning, burning unleaded gasoline and getting skin cancer. Generally I have been in favor of the solar farm application and more solar arrays in Aspen. And the thing is, it’s right in my backyard.
Several detractors approached me to write an opinion piece in opposition to the solar farm, but I ensured them they were barking up the wrong tree. My foolproof method is generally to indulge people who reach out to me, then politely tell them to write it themselves. My problems have problems. The last thing I want to do is write someone else’s political screed. Careful asking me to write something for you; I’m a loose cannon with walls of cannonballs. Who knows, maybe I’ll burst a vein in my forehead when they start construction this spring?
I’ll admit, there is some sense of hysteria for me surrounding the “climate emergency” nowadays, but I’m in full support of using more renewable resources — not because it’s political (it shouldn’t be), but because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t waste resources like food, or intentionally spill gas, water my lawn twice a day, or leave my heat and hot water on when not at home.
That, and I’ve hatched a nefarious Monkey Wrench Gang-esque plan to run a series of extension cords out to the solar farm and use the bootleg electricity to power my e-bike and Christmas light display next year. One argument from the solar farm detractors I could relate to was that it’s going to be unpleasant to look at. If there’s anyone who can tell you about obsessing about ugly things in my view plane, it’s me. If you think the solar farm is an “eyesore” wait until you see the debauched “As seen from space!” Aspen version of a nativity scene I’m planning with lasers, smoke and blow-up dolls.
There’s no shortage of “eyesores” in the valley, or ear-sores or nose-sores for that matter. But when it comes to things unpleasant to look at, Aspen has an incurable, contagious form of pinkeye bordering on conjunctivitis. Architectural buzz-kill view plane cock-blocks are our specialty. The only thing one can do is try and screen the mistake with landscaping, like putting sunglasses on it. It’s one of those situations, architecturally speaking, where the jeans actually do make the “butt look bigger.”
You know what is actually an eyesore though? The Brush Creek Intercept Lot. Light pollution, dust, noise, trash, abandoned/stored vehicles, drug deals, people sleeping in cars — it’s a mess.
Remember the energy crisis of the 1970s? I do. Gas shortages and an emphasis on turning off your lights when you weren’t using them and the like. That shaped me indelibly, along with growing up here and doing outdoor education in school.
My support of the local solar farm also has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up in a cutting-edge, solar-heated home subsidized by the Carter administration in Aspen’s exclusive West End, when it wasn’t so exclusive. Solar was a big deal in Aspen; the Aspen airport was remodeled with a huge, fascinating solar component. Gary Hart even came up and christened it. Hopefully the new airport will reprise that technology. A solar farm in Aspen fits. It strikes me as particularly trademark hippy-Aspen of the ‘70s. Which is what we all are yearning for, or so I thought.
Growing up in a solar-heated house you’re either sweating or freezing your ass off. We had terra-cotta tiles, wall-to-ceiling windows, skylights with louvers that were fitted with freon cylinders that acted as counter weights, opening and closing automatically with the change of temperature. The windows were all covered by blackout curtains custom made by a company called “Moby Drape” that opened and closed automatically based on an exterior sensor constantly monitoring the sun’s rays. We also had a solar-heated Jacuzzi that I got a girl pregnant in. Not just any girl, but a model that looked like Daryl Hannah in “Splash.” The kid’s 29 now, in case you were wondering.
One of the solar house’s many memorable moments came when a hummingbird flew inside and got stuck in a skylight. My dad, who was entirely responsible for the hummingbird’s addiction because he was feeding them a potent, crack-like mixture of sugar and red food coloring, went into a completely inconsolable panic, like when someone ODs at the dealer’s house. The sun had just gone down and the skylights were about to close, meaning certain death for the winged junkie. Finally the hummingbird appeared to die of exhaustion and fell with an inaudible thud to the dining room table.
My dad made a special “kick-start your heart” batch of hummingbird “go-juice,” put it in a saucer, and laid the little fella’s head right down in it. Thirty minutes passed and nothing, just a miniature bird marinating in a deathbed of simple sugar. Then the darnedest thing happened; we looked over and the hummingbird was sitting upright on the edge of the saucer, perhaps a little woozy, but alive and drinking again no less. Soon after, he flew right out the door.
Maybe the county commissioners would’ve voted down the solar project had someone from the Woody Creek Caucus self-immolated in front of everyone at the meeting. I guess no one was really willing to make a sacrifice for the environment.