Mesa Lights Off

From: Judy Denison 
Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 

NREL has issued a "Request for public and agency comments on
site-wide environmental issues related to the proposed operation
and improvements at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's
South Table Mountain site." Comments are due by May 15 for an
environmental assessment (EA) coming out in October 2002.

From: D. Ohmans
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002

Chris Powers, PR Director for NREL and a member of this list, told
me a year ago that the laboratory on the South Table Mountain Mesa
Top Facilities was to be the only "semi-permanent structure." More
recently he told The Transcript that the night lighting at the
facility was a matter of "four 50-watt bulbs."

The following is called PROPOSED ACTION AND ALTERNATIVES from the
NREL website: "Short-Term Components (2003-2007) - The Short-Term
improvement program includes components for both the STM and the
DWOP (Denver West Office Park) site, but MOST OF THE PHYSICAL
following improvements define the short-term components of the
Proposed Action: 
  • Facility for expanded photovoltaic research and technology development
  • Laboratories for plant biotechnology and research greenhouses
  • Biorefinery pilot-scale facility
  • Facilities for whole building testing, integrated building/ transportation energy systems, and office and laboratory space
  • Relocation of staff and program implementation to and/ or from DWOP and STM
  • Facility for large vehicle test research
  • Laboratory facilities for expanded fundamental hydrogen research
  • Facility for larger scale hydrogen process development and integration
  • Visitor Center improvement
  • Additional space for computing facility
  • Research Support Facilities
  • Electrical infrastructure
  • Telecommunications infrastructure
  • Domestic water system, including gray water system improvements
  • Fire protection system
  • Sewage system
  • On-site roads, parking areas, and site entrances
  • Additional alternative fueling stations
  • Security infrastructure" If you are still with me folks, the point is that Save The Mesas has another emergency before it. I fear that this one shall be met with a yawn. From: D. Ohmans Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 I was thrilled to discover that Coors Brewing Co. has purchased my old domain name, , which I let expire. For those of you who miss my ratking website (;-) it is still available at . Re the NREL mesa top expansion, send comments to . However, I believe a petition is what is to be done. Short of that, please cast your vote at Push-It-Back above. Thanks. From: Don Cameron Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 I have read the documents posted on the DOE site and am not in a panic over the impact to South Table Mountain (STM). All but some very small buildings look to be below the top of the Mesa and out of line of site from all but the edge of Golden. I think NREL is a national treasure. You may support mass transit (I do), and wind and solar power (I have panels on my roof), and you may walk the talk when it comes to your energy use. But, sadly many people in this country don't. Regardless, for the betterment of the planet and to reduce our use of Energy resources we need NREL. It is good for the country and good for Golden. Now, look at the proposals. If you take a quick look at the map you see that most of the construction is well below the rim where existing facilities already exist. Secondly the structures that might impact STM top are very limited. A group like save the mesas has a role to play here to be sure. But any attempt to save the mesas needs to be balanced (in my view) with other needs. Safe, reliable RENEWABLE energy is a huge need in this country. From what I've seen of the needed improvements at NREL I could live with the changes. One other thought. Are you a NIMBY (Not in my back yard), a BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone) or from GOLDEN (Good Old Local Defenders of Environment and Nature) With any luck you can see a portion of the picture from the documents posted below, but some lists don't allow imbedded images. Sincerely, Don B. Cameron Golden From: D. Ohmans Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2002 Don Cameron writes, "If you take a quick look at the map you see that most of the construction is well below the rim where existing facilities actually exist." Don, NREL itself says, "most of the physical improvements will occur at the STM (Mesa Top Facilities) site." Barry Bloom chimes in, "Thank you for the informative, well- grounded information." Barry, Don Cameron's information is that he admires NREL very much. Yet a bare mesa is of a different order. A DARK MESA is the choice of 17 of 32 (53 percent) of voters on the Internet site above, where duplicate voting is technologically prohibited. Then along comes Sean VonFeldt who agrees with Don 100% - in the Golden Newsletter no less. Look ma, no firestorm of opinion brewing to save you... From: D. Ohmans Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 I erred, for which I apologize. I assumed that NREL's STM site was the Mesa Top Facilities only. I just drove out there, and indeed the main modernistic building at the foot is called the South Table Mountain Site. STM (versus DWOP) includes the Mesa Top Facilities, because every one of those facilities' structures are marked in color on their map for "improvement." On February 6, 2002 John Kersten, acting manager of NREL, wrote Golden, " entertain a ban on all lights on the mesa is not reasonable." So much for motion detectors instead of floodlights. The good people of Goldenco would like a commitment from someone at NREL that the horrendous visual impact of its Mesa Tops Facilities shall never be more than it is tonight. Beyond that, let us Push It Back to an acceptably dim future. For you Parkway optimists, J. Kersten also wrote, "We would entertain reasonable suggestions as to how we might further reduce visibility of our lights to the community." [] From: Judy Denison Date: Sun, 5 May 2002 STM BOARD MAY 9 TO DISCUSS NREL PROPOSAL There will be a Save The Mesas Board meeting on Thursday, May 9, to discuss a response to the DOE request for comments on the proposed NREL actions. This Board meeting is open to all. We want as much input as possible on this matter. Please read the document and be ready with comments and other possible actions. The meeting is at 7:00pm at 305 Lookout View Drive (Don & Mary Parker's, 303-279-4549). The Request for Comments document is on on Click on 'Reading Room' at the home page, scroll to the bottom of the list. It's the last item. Comments are requested by May 15. From: Powers, Christopher Date: Mon, 6 May 2002 12:06:41 Actually, we are working on installing motion detectors as a solution to the problem. When the issue of the NREL mesa top lights first arose, as a complaint from a Pleasant View resident, we added shielding to redirect the lights away from the Pleasant View community. We thought that solved it, but after several people in Golden raised the issue again, we took another look. From Pleasant View, in my opinion, the lights are hardly visible. However, one night I took a look at the lights while driving west on Colfax and then north on 6th toward Golden, and I noticed the lights became brighter. I think this happened because I was basically driving around the shielding. In any case, our laboratory has been looking at solutions for a couple of months now and recently determined that using motion sensors instead of continuously burning lights would probably still meet our security requirements. Because nothing happens fast in the government, the fix could take until mid-summer. I hesitate to make this a firm commitment, because we could run into some issue we had not foreseen, but we are planning to install motion sensors. Chris Powers Department of Energy From: D. Ohmans Date: 8 May, 2002 Steve Smith of the "Golden Transcript," Marian Olson of the "Voice of Golden," Judy Denison of the Golden Newsletter, This is major news. Thanks are due to Bill Astle, Jeffco Democrats chair, and John Lahr, U.S. government scientist for supporting the cause of Mesa Lights Off. No home can now develop on South Table Mountain - or convenience store. P.S. Perlmutter and Stevinson, the Golden City Council, usw. P.P.S. Hasta la victoria siempre. From: D. Ohmans Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2002 Dear Chris Powers, It looks to me that there is a new bank of bright floodlights on the NREL mesa top facility.  Seems to be four or five of them in a single cluster.  What happened to your promised motion sensors.                Sincerely,                Doug "Everything is broken."                --Bob Dylan-- From: Powers, Christopher Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2002 Doug--We did keep our promise.  We installed motion detectors in July. Apparently, they functioned fine for a while, but now are not shutting the lights off a few minutes after detecting motion, as they are designed to do. The contractor has been called, so we should have a dark mesa top again soon. Chris Powers DOE/NREL From: D. Ohmans Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 The NREL Footprint on the Table looks GREAT, i.e. almost invisible at night.  THANK YOU SO MUCH. From: Don Parker Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 Excellent work Doug.  Well done.   It's a fine example of how one person can make a difference. Don From: J. Doug Ohmans Date: Monday, June 09, 2003 The U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is a bad neighbor. For the past week, their motion sensors at the Mesa Top Facilities on South Table Mountain have been turned off, or have been malfunctioning.... The mountain went dark.  Those of us who were broken-hearted when, in August 1998 (just six months after Save The Mesas had defeated Nike's attempted incursion on the same surface) governments approved a two-story 2600 square-foot laboratory building on the pristine surface, found some relief from the sting of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.  But an informal promise from a bureaucrat is no assurance of permanence:  the U.S. Government will do what it wants, and damn public opinion. What's new.  The Central Plans Community Plan includes the following footnote, where Jeffco planners assume the voice of developers: "Fact:  NREL has protected 177 acres on South Table Mountain slopes and mesa top with a conservation easement.  An additional 10 acres is set aside for Jefferson County Open Space trails through the NREL property.  Of the 104.7 acres owned by NREL on the mesa top, only 13 acres are developable.  NREL is proposing to expand one of the existing mesa top buildings on the 13 acres by about 1,350 square feet." Are they going to add a third story.  What are they going to do. Does the public have a snowball's chance in hell of influencing them.  Will that old whore, homeland security, be trotted out to justify floodlights.  What is to be done. Brothers and sisters, let's put up a fight.  We might lose, but let us disrupt the sleep of e.g. the NREL manager who said, "We would have to weigh the public outcry against the fact that NREL is working to benefit the entire planet for hundreds of years to come." In an unprecedented move, the public just authorized gravel quarrying by Lafarge on 60 acres of Jefferson County Open Space land.  A great victory, because we obtained North Table Mountain in exchange.  But an example nevertheless of how the public can be blackmailed into submission by the facts of private property ownership. In opposing NREL's expansion on the top, all we have going for us is their self-esteem as environmentalists.  A formalized zoning standard requiring lights out at night on STM must be our non-negotiable minimum.  At best they should remove their settlement from our prized territory.  Of course, as Ed Perlmutter, Dale Lauer and others conceded five years ago, we the people come as beggars with our hats in our hands. But you can do something, right now.  Please click over to the URL above,, which now includes a new voting machine on the question:  Should NREL's Mesa Top Facilities use motion sensors instead of floodlights. Let's move from there to a petition, letter-writing, attendance at meetings, and ultimately perhaps civil disobedience.  Once built, the expansion--like the "semi-permanent" lab now--will never go away - just like the cancer that it is. J. Doug Ohmans