From Desolate Ranch to Eco-town

Nipton, California, Trades Tumbleweeds for Solar Panels

Written by Green Chip Stocks
Posted May 19, 2011 at 7:55PM

Very few people have heard of Nipton, California. And rightfully so...

The town was once a covered wagon and cattle rancher stop over a century ago. It slowly evolved into a railroad and mining town.

Today, this small town has big plans to become America's sustainable wonderland.

Back in 1984, Caltech-trained geologist Gerald Freeman stumbled onto this town with population of one sole resident who lived in the trading post selling drinks to the rare passerby.

Seeing potential in this desolate town, he decided to invest $200,000 in the purchase of this unknown outpost.

Since then, Freeman has put a small fortune into restoring Nipton, including the installation of solar panels totaling 80-kilowatts — enough to power the majority of the town — in the hopes to be a green hospitality center for people heading into the nearby Mojave National Preserve.

The energy generated from the panels will power five Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired “eco-cabins” for the nature loving tourists.

One of those cabins houses the Whistle Stop Cafe — which boasts the “best burgers in Nipton” — along with a billiards table, jukebox, fireplace, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi.

Nipton's population increased fblueribbonniptonrom one to 20, most of whom live in recreational vehicles and trailers.

Freeman's goals for the next ten years in his self-proclaimed town “powered by the sun” are energy-efficient buildings, an organic farm, electric vehicle charging stations, and more solar installations.

His sustainability stance is as beneficial to the town as it is for the overall movement of eco-friendly towns, as his large rows of solar panels are attracting out-of-state visitors interested in mimicking the effect in their own communities.

The beauty of this modern eco-town is that Freeman owns it all and can do whatever his green heart desires...

“I decide the priorities around here, and those are to be a real community,” he says.

And a community it is becoming.

As The LA Times reported:

Since January, the population has more than doubled to 60 residents as clean-tech job seekers flood into the area. In the nearby hills, Molycorp Inc. is expanding its rare earth mine, digging up minerals used in wind turbines and smartphones. A 15-minute drive away in the Ivanpah Valley, BrightSource Energy Inc. is building a solar farm.

Freeman also hopes to set up town-wide Wi-Fi, restroom and shower facilities for recreational vehicles, and perhaps one day, a school.

Check out the Nipton website to learn more about this little town-that-could and see how Freeman's vision is inspiring other towns across the country.

Mike Tirone