by Susan Simons
WALSENBURG- On Tues. Mar. 11, about a dozen people joined the Huerfano Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commissioners for a joint public hearing on the preliminary application for construction of Pole Canyon Wind Farm, a renewable wind energy facility. David Hettich, Project Manager of Pole Canyon Wind LLC, and Grant Gurnee, Ecological Restoration Manager, gave a powerpoint presentation and answered questions about the project.
The project site is northwest of Walsenburg on the north side of highway 69 on 5800 acres currently zoned for agricultural use and used for cattle production. Cattle production would continue after the initial construction.
Planned access to the site will be from exit 52 on I-25 to highway 69 to CR 611. The project is approximately four miles from highway 69. Pole Canyon Wind LLC must obtain state and federal permits for road and bridge access, and they will work with the county on necessary road improvements and public safety.
At present, three 60-meter wind monitoring towers are up and collecting data. They have recorded wind speeds which are the highest in the state. Hettich called the area a “tremendous wind resource.”
Construction is tentatively scheduled for late spring /summer 2008 and is projected to take nine months for a staff of 200, most of whom will be brought in to the county. Post-construction, the project will employ 10-15 permanent employees at first with the potential of 45 employees maximum. The project is expected to last at least 30 years.
When the project is launched, from 100-300 wind turbines 80 meters in height will be erected on the site. Pole Canyon Wind LLC hopes to erect fewer and larger turbines. They will be concentrated on the east side of the project area where wind speeds are highest and away from wilderness areas and mountain landscapes.
The project has completed a thorough environmental analysis including study of geology, soils, water and wetlands, wildlife, historical and archaeological resources. While there will be disturbance during the initial construction, it will be minimal once the wind turbines are erected. The current technology of wind turbines makes raptor and other bird fatalities very rare, ranging from 0.0 – 0.117/turbine/year. The land will be retored to its original condition and, at the end of the project, remove the facility.
This renewable energy project is expected to brings jobs to Huerfano County, bolster farm incomes, attract new forms of economic activity, and benefit the electicity ratepayer. At meeting’s end, a letter from Walsenburg City Council was read in which the Council unanimously supported the project.
Pole Canyon Wind LLC will now submit a final application with all easements in place. Soon after, another, larger public hearing on the project will be scheduled. The Planning and Zoning Commission will then review the application and recommend it to the County Commissioners for approval, approval with conditions, or denial.