2023 Explanatory Reporting, Large Newsroom finalist

Repowering the West

About the Project

Renewable energy is reshaping landscapes and communities across the American West, driven by an urgent need to confront the climate crisis. But as power companies work to build solar farms and wind turbines at a breakneck pace, they face opposition from rural residents, Native American tribes and, at times, environmentalists — all of them concerned about the fate of places they know and love. Climate solutions can create losers as well as winners.

The Los Angeles Times is shining a spotlight on that uncomfortable reality through “Repowering the West,” an ongoing series led by energy reporter Sammy Roth. Part 1 published in August 2022, telling the story of a massive Wyoming wind farm funded by a conservative billionaire. L.A. Times journalists spent a week exploring the construction site and following the planned route of a 730-mile transmission line that will carry the wind power to California. Part 2, published in January 2023, takes readers to California’s Imperial Valley, an agricultural powerhouse where solar panels are rapidly replacing farmland, which holds promise for both the climate crisis and the water crisis.

Our reporting offered an unprecedented, in-depth look at the consequences of renewable energy development, including damage to wildlife habitat, disruption of scenic views and conflicts with private property owners. It also painted a portrait of rural Americans being asked by major cities such as Los Angeles to help them beat their fossil fuel addiction.