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Busch Ranch seeks approval for wind farm project

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- The Busch Ranch in eastern Huerfano County is the chosen site for a wind farm that is unique in the American landscape of wind projects. It is a cooperation between EUI, the site developer and Black Hills Energy, the company that will purchase the power.
EUI is developing the site which will have 16 1.8 megaWatt turbines erected in phase one of the development. A substation will be built on site and according to federal government regulations can be utilized by other wind projects if necessary. A 115 kilovolt transmission line will be built from the onsite substation to move the electrical power to the Black Hills plant 33 miles away, which is located on property owned by Vestas, the wind turbine manufacturer located just south of Pueblo.
Black Hills Energy and EUI both indicated during a public hearing on the project, that modifications to Highway 10 where it intersects with CR 130 may be necessary in order to allow for the trucks that will be transporting the large wind turbines to make the turn off.
The $50 million dollar phase one part of the project will see a total of 50 turbines installed, mostly on the Busch Ranch, by the time EUI enters phase three.
The turbines will be linked together via underground insulated aluminum transmission 34.5 kilovolt cable which will link in with the substation. The transformers at the substation will boost the current to 115kv for transmission.
Towers for the transmission line will be of the double pole “H” type and will carry a 115kv single circuit line capable of moving 90 megaWatts that can be expanded to a double circuit as the project grows and generates greater amounts of power.
Black Hills Energy also has a firm commitment to a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with EUI. Lack of a PPA is what has stopped other wind projects in the county, as in the case of the Silver Mountain project. Another local stalled wind project was the Cordova Mesa project when the developer lost the PPA in the middle of negotiations after Xcel Energy located a less expensive producer of wind energy.
The Busch Ranch project will allow Black Hills Energy to meet their required 30 percent renewable energy standard (RES) mandated by the Colorado Legislature in HB 1001 by 2020.
This is the first application to come before the Commission under Colorado Revised Statutes §40-2-124(f)(I) as well as the associated Rule 3660 (h), regarding the statutory requirement for the Commission to adopt incentives for qualifying retail utilities (“QRU’s”) to develop and own, as utility rate-based property, eligible energy resources. It is this that makes this wind project a first in such type projects in the U.S.
Objections to the plan came from… Jan and John Troha who own property in eastern Huerfano County. They voiced concerns about the project, citing information concerning a lawsuit recently filed in Denver’s U.S. District Court.
The lawsuit claims that the state’s renewable energy mandate —passed by the state legislature in 2010 of 30 percent by 2020— discriminates against other energy resources that are less costly, less polluting, safer and more reliable, both inside and outside the state.
Attorneys with Holsinger Law LLC in Denver, in an article by Cathy Procter posted in the Denver Business Journal and dated April 4, stated that the RES (Renewable Energy Standard) of 30 percent creates a barrier to interstate commerce; something that’s not permissible under the Constitution. The power to regulate interstate commerce is with the Congress.