Published on October 4th, 2016 | by Tina Casey0
New 600 MW Colorado Wind Farm Blows Past ALEC Roadblock
October 4th, 2016 by Tina Casey
The powerful lobbying organization ALEC has been trying to trip up the US wind industry for years, but it looks like the state of Colorado is not listening. Despite objections from at least one organization linked to ALEC, Colorado officials have just approved a massive new 600-megawatt wind farm.
One More Good Reason For Wind Energy — OPEC Edition
The good news for renewable energy fans comes barely two weeks after OPEC announced its first production curtailment in a generation. Global oil prices are already on the rise, but EV drivers can take advantage of low cost clean energy to fuel up.
Additional price pressures on coal and natural gas — two important sources for electricity generation in Colorado — are in the pipeline as these sectors are called to account for public health and environmental impacts.
According to the Denver Business Journal, Colorado ratepayers can expect to save up to $443 million over the next 25 years once the new wind farm goes online.
Xcel Is On A Wind Energy Tear
Xcel Energy is the developer behind the new Colorado project, dubbed Rush Creek. Just last week, the company announced that it is pumping 1500 megawatts of new wind capacity into MISO, a massive grid serving several midwestern states and part of Canada. The new Colorado wind farm adds another 600 megawatts to a very busy year for Xcel.
Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission approved the new project last Friday, putting an official stamp on an earlier agreement that supports the project with new transmission lines.
Here’s the rundown on the new Colorado project from Xcel:
- Proposes 600 megawatts of new wind power for its Colorado system, generated at two wind farms to be built in Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson, and Lincoln counties
- Includes 300 Vestas wind turbines to be built at facilities in Brighton, Pueblo, and Windsor
- Nearly 90 miles of transmission line will connect and carry the wind power output from the turbines to the substation near Deer Trail in Arapahoe County
Aside from lowering costs for ratepayers, Xcel anticipates a boom in new jobs and an additional $180 million pumped into the state’s economy from property taxes and lease payments to land owners.
One additional benefit could come to the state’s agriculture sector in the form of microclimates generated by wind farms. According to a report published last year, wind farms may spur a slight cooling effect during the day and a warming effect at night, helping to prevent early and late frosts.
Colorado has also been dipping a toe into the power-to-gas waters, so stay tuned for more on that as the state keeps adding more wind capacity.
What Now, ALEC?
Wind is not a zero-impact energy source (nothing is, of course), and ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) has taken full advantage of that fact to gin up controversy over new wind farm sites.
The Rush Creek project is a case in point. An ALEC-linked non-profit called the Independence Institute waded into the fray with a catchily-titled summary of objections. It presented its report as an environmental document:
A new report titled “Irresponsible by Nature: No need for, no need to rush Rush Creek Wind Project” from the Independence Institute shows how Xcel’s plan for 300 wind turbines spanning 95,000 acres is “irresponsible by nature,” citing failures to address protection and safety concerns for Colorado’s wildlife and environment.
However, most of the report is actually an economic screed against the wind industry in general and the Colorado wind industry in particular.
Near the end there is a section dealing with wildlife issues. Here’s a snippet (italics are in the original):
Wind turbines are notorious killers of birds as well as bats. Xcel has done nothing to address wildlife issues. Since Xcel has acknowledged wildlife concerns, they should actually address them. At the very least, Xcel should provide information and time to others who wish to conduct, and possibly publish, environmental assessments.
The Independence Institute appears to be a lone voice in the wind so to speak. The group Western Resource Advocates supports wind energy for its big-picture role in reducing carbon and other pollutants, many of which derive from Colorado’s coal dependency.
The rural economic development organization Progressive 15 is also on record in support of the project.
Photo: Courtesy of Xcel Energy.
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