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Huerfano River Wind Project is a go

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- After receiving approval from the county on a conditional use permit (CUP) to build a small wind farm north of Walsenburg, New Centennial Power is now moving forward on the $16 to $17 million wind project.
Called the Huerfano River Wind Project, the 110.4 acre site located north of the Huerfano River and adjacent to the San Isabel Electric Association substation at I-25 mile marker 62, will boast five 1.8 megaWatt wind turbines capable of producing 9mW of power.
New Centennial Power is in good faith negotiations with San Isabel on a power purchase agreement (PPA). When inked, the PPA will contract all the power generated by the project to be sold to San Isabel. The project came together with the full support of Huerfano County officials.
Employing 40 workers from the local workforce on a temporary basis, the project will link into San Isabel’s substation, just south of the project, either with underground cables or by utilizing existing overhead lines.
It will take nine months to build the project with construction beginning in the fall of 2011 with completion set for the spring of 2012. The 1.8 mW turbines will stand about 240 feet high with approximately a 141-foot blade length, giving each turbine an overall height of about 381 feet.
Over the course of the 20-30 year lifespan of the project, only one full time employee will be needed for maintenance and operation of the project.
In an email from New Centennial Power General Manager Chris Schaefer, she notes that wind power is the least expensive renewable energy source and one of the cheapest overall. “Wind power provides a hedge against fossil fuel price volatility, and this ability to hedge fuel price fluctuations generally allows utilities to provide more stabilized energy rates.”
In other wind energy news, Black Hills Energy, one of the primary partners in the proposed Busch Wind Farm Project, went before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission at a public hearing in Pueblo on Tuesday, Aug. 30 to request a 19-percent rate hike, according to a report in the Pueblo Chieftain.
The rate increase, if approved, will pay for the construction of a $478 million power plant fired by natural gas being built north of the Pueblo Memorial Airport. The request for a rate increase has generated opponents including state and local AARP members. The Chieftain reports that the AARP has circulated information saying the proposed rate increase would add an additional $19 a month to the average home electric bill. And the PUC has noted that small businesses could see monthly rate hikes of about $67 a month.
Xcel Energy announced in June it will add 200 megaWatts of wind generation through a contract with NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, near Limon, Colo. NextEra Energy, formerly known as FPL Energy, is headquartered in Juno, Fla.
Then in August, Xcel Energy announced it would purchase an additional 200 megaWatts from NextEra Energy. This time the power will be used “… in an effort to help Boulder, Colo., reach its climate action goals without its municipalization of our (Excel) system,” according to an email from Xcel Energy’s senior media representative Mark Stutz.
A 20-year franchise agreement between Boulder and Xcel Energy expired last fall, and Boulder is continuing its attempts to municipalize Xcel Energy’s infrastructure. Xcel Energy is refusing to sell its assets to the city of Boulder.
Xcel Energy had offered to contract for a wind farm that would be exclusive to Boulder, but the city did not accept the offer because it would not include the renewal of Xcel Energy’s franchise as an issue on the ballot in November. “We felt, however, that the second wind deal was so beneficial that we decided to move ahead with it anyway and incorporate it into our Windsource program,” Stutz noted in an email.
With the wind farm projects now taking place in Limon and the delays to the development of the San Luis Valley solar projects, the status of the Southern Colorado Transmission Line project might be in question. However according to an Xcel Energy spokesman, the delays are creating a “… great deal of uncertainty — but not lack of interest — on the part of those who want to invest in the … solar power of … Southern Colorado.”