Chris Davenport: We Can’t Keep Hoping Someone Else Will Take the Lead

Photo: Aaron Blatt

At POW, we work on federal, state-level AND local work. Read below for the latest from professional big mountain skier and POW board member, Chris Davenport on the Pitkin County solar project.

This story originally appeared in the Aspen Times here.


Amidst the crisis of a 500-year flood event, an unprecedented wildfire season or facing historic landslides, we Americans don’t procrastinate by asking ourselves if the solutions to these crises make us uncomfortable. We step up, take care of our community and get the tough work done. This is what leadership is all about.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, we’ve been setting the bar on climate from the very beginning. Now, with the chance to continue leading toward a clean energy future, why would we do anything differently? Our neighbors in Boulder joined the more than 750 governments worldwide in declaring a climate crisis and Basalt prepares for the same discussion in mid-August.

Holy Cross Energy and Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District have launched a project to build a new solar facility in Pitkin County to reduce carbon emissions from their sanitation operations. When a project like this comes along — right in line with what we talk about achieving — it’s a no-brainer to support it.

As a board member of Protect Our Winters and longtime resident of the Roaring Fork Valley, I know that a commitment to a clean energy future is paramount to our success as a society, but especially to our viability as a mountain town. We can’t keep waiting around, hoping someone else will take the lead.

The Pitkin solar facility will add five megawatts of clean energy back to the grid, offsetting 8,750 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year and removing the equivalent of 2,000 cars from the road. When the facility is fully up and running, it will generate no noise, water or air pollution and require no water or sanitation to run.

Colorado mandated state-wide legislation to support clean energy, Pitkin County has set a climate action plan in motion, and Holy Cross Energy has a goal to reach 70% clean energy by 2030. Everyone is making climate commitments; now it’s time to do our part.

In small mountain communities like ours, I know firsthand how uncomfortable change can be. A new hotel or lift can lead us to wonder where it will end — what will new development turn our town into in 20 or 50 years? But we can’t ask this question without also wondering what our valley will look like if we do nothing at all. The reality is that our ski seasons are trending shorter, wildfires are increasing in intensity and severity and our outdoor recreation economy is feeling the effects — our valley is changing before our eyes whether we like it or not.

As a local who loves this valley, I’d much rather participate in a future of deep snowpack, healthy rivers and clean air — visible solar panels and all — than one decimated by climate change. When we embrace clean energy, we continue to strengthen our already resilient and forward-thinking community. For our future, our families and our community, supporting the Pitkin solar facility and a clean energy future is the right way forward.

Chris Davenport is an accomplished big-mountain skier and is involved in local, national and global environmental efforts.