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Wind & water considered by commissioners

WALSENBURG–  Wind and water moved from the back burner to the front during the regular commissioners meeting, Wednesday, April 21.  Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., (RES) and the COGCC both made reports to the commissioners, bringing them up to date on two controversial energy projects in Huerfano County. 

    Peter Gintautas, an Environmental Specialist with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), walked the county commissioners through the maze of work Petroglyph Operating Company has been sifting through over the past two years in order to become compliant with the Environmental Protection Agency’s concerns about surface water discharge from the Vermijo Formation.

    Gintautas presented a power point presentation showing the recovery of water in the Poison Canyon Formation and the decreasing incidence of methane leach into private wells in the River Ridge Ranch subdivision.

    Coal bed methane began seeping into residential wells in the subdivision over the past several years as Petroglyph pumped around 8.5 million gallons of water a day from the Vermijo Formation, a deeper strata, in order to release trapped CBM. 

    The COGCC ordered Petroglyph to stop the ground water discharge two years ago and to work up a Methane Investigation Mitigation and Monitoring Plan.  Petroglyph has been in the process of applying the plan over the past year and is currently at the end of phase one of the plan.

    Phase one calls for Petroglyph to monitor the local area wells that have been affected along with the extraction and injection wells the company is using to seal off methane creep. The plan also calls for continual monitoring of the water wells and collecting data of outcrops via aerial survey.

    Phase two, which will be implemented in a few months according to Gintautas, will be to collect additional water from selected CBM wells for study.

    Phase three will bring the CBM operation into production.

    “Right now we know that most of the wells that have been venting gas have stopped since we put the remediation plan into effect,” Gintautas said.

    However CBM isn’t the only resource Huerfano County has.  Wind is the other big natural resource for the county and RES is still moving forward with its plan to develop the Silver Mountain Ranch area.

    The report delivered by RES looked to answer concerns that the county commissioners and residents of the county voiced in 2009 during a series of public meetings.

    The major concern centered around the cluttering of the US 160 scenic corridor with wind turbines.

    RES has decided to reduce the number of turbines from 59 to 41.

    “This will move the set backs for the scenic corridor from a few hundred yards to around a quarter of a mile from the center of the highway,” Carry Kling RES Project manager said.

    RES has also been in contact with San Isabel Electric and Tri State Power concerning the use of transmission lines and purchases of power generated at Silver Mountain.

    County Administrator John Galusha also queried RES concerning and additional $1,500 per mega watt capacity paid to the county.  The request was based on an action taken by Alamosa County and the solar power generation operations being developed there.

    “That would be something we could be positive about,” Kling said.