U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn toured the Central Colorado Regional Airport in Buena Vista for about an hour Monday afternoon and stopped in on a meeting of Colorado energy distributors as part of a wider tour of local groups in the Chaffee County area.
Lamborn, who represents Colorado’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House, also met with Chaffee County commissioners later that day.
“I wanted to learn about the economics of what’s going on at this airport and what it’s bringing in to the community, and I’m really fascinated by the helicopter connection,” Lamborn said. “They have connections to the military, which I’m a big supporter of … High-altitude testing and training is really important to Colorado. That’s huge for the military.”
Airport manager Jack Wyles, Mayor Duff Lacy, town administrator Phillip Puckett and Airport Advisory Board chairman Dennis Heap showed Lamborn around the facility, including two large helicopters undergoing testing in the airport’s main hangar, one by the Air Force and another by private Italian manufacturer Leonardo Company.
Heap explained to Lamborn the recent progress in the airport’s Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS drone program, the Central Colorado UAS club.
“This valley is kind of getting known for being very UAS friendly for the same reasons that those helicopters are here,” Heap told Lamborn. “We’ve helped law enforcement, Search and Rescue. We’re branching out into some of the uses the county could have where we would use drones as a vehicle to look at noxious weeds. We’ve worked with our local ranchers here.”
“There’s a lot of options that really fit here,” Lacy said. “Everybody’s going to be able to use them.”
At that time, a group of representatives from electric co-ops around the state were conducting a regular meeting on solar energy in a conference room at the facility.
They were discussing the question, as Colorado Solar and Storage Association president Mike Kruger put it, “How do we get more solar storage on the grid?”
Specifically, the group was discussing resiliency of the grid in the face of attacks or extreme weather events.
“That was interesting,” Lamborn said after the meeting. “These people do a lot with storage of energy, especially solar-produced energy, and they want to make that a more viable source of energy going forward.”
Lamborn shared with the group concerns he had received from Fort Carson about disruptions to their energy grid.
“The military base, Fort Carson, wants to have anywhere from 30 to 90 days of cushion in case there was an attack on the grid or an extreme weather disturbance or something like that,” Lamborn said. “They’re looking at batteries and storage, they’re looking at all the utilities … It’s conceivable they could be a pilot project for military bases all around the country.”