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PUC denies Black Hills’ Huerfano wind farm plan

DENVER — The Colorado Public Utilities Commission last week again denied Black Hills Energy’s request to build a 34-tower, 60-megawatt wind farm in Huerfano County saying the energy provider supplied unrealistic forecasts for natural gas prices if the facility were to be built. Black Hills had solicited proposals for various energy projects; wind, solar, and solar / waste-to-energy projects in May 2014. The wind farm build out to the existing Highway 10 16-tower wind farm was submitted by Invenergy, of Chicago, IL, and was one of the top three proposals submitted according to Black Hills spokesman Brett Jones. He said overall, 49 various proposals were received. The Invenergy proposal would have, if approved, added 34 new wind towers to the Highway 10 wind farm. The utility representatives at the PUC said the wind farm could save customers $113 million over the next 25-years, however PUC board member Joshua Epel said the wind farm itself could cost as much as $246 million to ratepayers over time, not a $113 million saving. The commission met in a two hour session last Thursday and repeated their objections to the request with one of the main issues being the long term natural gas cost forecast Black Hills submitted in the request. Western Resource Advocates’ energy analyst, Gwen Farnsworth, said the Black Hills price forecast used the specific model required by the

PUC. The commissioners appeared however to rely on a price forecast supplied by Xcel Energy. Jones, confirmed Farnsworth’s account of the meeting, including the debate of the gas price forecast, but said Black Hills would not have a formal comment until the PUC commissioners release their written decision. Black Hills and its supporters, like Western Resource Advocates, had sought the commission to reconsider its February 2015 ruling against the wind farm plan. The Colorado PUC commission members are Epel, Pamela Patton, and Glenn Vaad.

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