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Planning commission to review wind farm 1041 application

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- Black Hills Energy and EUI are seeking approval of an HB 1041 application allowing them to develop a wind farm site on Busch Ranch property in eastern Huerfano County. Sixteen 1.8 MegaWatt turbines will be erected in phase one of the development.
Along with the wind turbines, a substation will also be built on site which, according to federal government regulations, can be utilized by other wind projects if necessary. Planned for the site development will be a 115 kilovolt transmission line to be built from the onsite substation to move the electrical power to the Black Hills plant 33 miles away. The construction will be located on property owned by Vestas, the wind turbine manufacturer located just south of Pueblo. Vestas will be the manufacturer of the turbines that will be used.
Phase one will cost Black Hills Energy and EUI an estimated $50 million with an estimated economic impact to Huerfano County of around $800,000. The annual property taxes on phase one are expected to be more than $100,000 and there will be a onetime benefit of approximately $700,000 in sales and use taxes and permit fees.
Wind power electric generation is part of the 30 percent renewable energy standard (RES) mandated for utilities by the state. The goal is to be achieved by 2030 according to Colorado Revised Statutes §40-2-124(f)(I) as well as the associated Rule 3660 (h). The statute and the rule mandate the Public Utilities Commission to adopt incentives for qualifying retail utilities (“QRU’s”) to develop and own, as utility rate-based property, eligible energy resources such as wind, solar, and geo-thermal.
Some have argued that the building of wind farms isn’t necessarily “green.” The carbon foot-print, or the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, in the construction of a wind farm is about the same as it would be for building a coal fired power generating plant or a nuclear power plant. All three types of power plants would pay off any carbon emissions from construction within the first year of operation.
The carbon emissions for a wind farm come from the manufacture of the various components: the tower, blades, and nacell. The nacell is the box that sits on top of the tower, just behind the blades and transmits the energy generated by the turning blades down the tower to the generator.
Another contributing factor would be the manufacture and transportation of the concrete used for the footing and the transportation of the components for the turbine as well. Other contributing factors are the manufacture, shipping, and installation of the transmission components such as cables, convertors, and any towers used to mount the transmission cables.
However with wind, since no fuel is introduced for the operation of the turbine itself, no carbon is put into the atmosphere beyond the initial construction phase. And since the life span of a wind turbine is around 20 years, it operates, most of the time, CO2 free.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will review the Black Hills-Busch Ranch wind farm 1041 application and then ask for more information to be provided or recommend that the Huerfano County Commission approve the application with or without conditions or recommend the county commission disapprove the application.
If the application is approved, then the Busch Wind Farm can move forward with construction. That will involve an enhancement to Highway 10 at County Road 130 to allow trucks transporting the components of the turbines to turn off the highway and on to the county road.