The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted Dec. 19 to approve the Golden West Power Partner’s wind farm project in Calhan, Colo. Commissioner Amy Lathen voted against the wind farm, and Darryl Glenn was not present.
The project has been several years in the making; tests on the area started more than 10 years ago. The proximity of the turbines to residents was one reason Lathen voted no. The distances were renegotiated because of her concern.
The board meeting ran about 11 hours, with the wind farm consuming the majority of the time.
After Golden West’s presentation on the wind farm project, Mark Lowderman, county assessor, provided data on land values relative to wind farms.
Several people from the community expressed opinions – more than 20 people spoke in favor of the project and about 10 against.
On the pro side, the speakers said the wind farm will provide jobs, as well as additional income for those with turbines on their property.
Scott Campbell spoke for the Palmer Land Trust, expressing his concerns about the project. He requested that the commissioners approve the wind farm only if the turbines seen from the Paint Mines would be relocated.
L.J. Mott, a professional engineer, addressed the nameplate rating or the amount of power the plant can produce. “The numbers were too big, but when I contacted GE, they stonewalled,” Mott said. “Ultimately, when they were forced to give me the numbers, I confirmed their numbers; corrected for conditions in Calhan, and found that the rating on each turbine is overstated by a factor of 2.4.”
However, Matthew Cumberworth, director of Golden West, said that GE's numbers already accounted for the conditions in Calhan, taking into consideration air density because of altitude and variance in wind speed. Cumberworth said Mott's calculations were not accurate. “Six independent studies confirmed the math,” he said. Cumberworth also said the Public Service Co. of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, picked the Golden West project and one other out of 55 multi-source bids. In reference to the wind farm’s energy-producing capability, Cumberworth said, “We beat out gas.”
Janet Johani, a Peyton resident against the wind farm, said at this point she doesn't plan to move. “I don't know how much the transmission line will obstruct my view.” she said. “I'll bide my time until I see. I don't want to get used to it – I don't want something (that) I have to get used to.”
Residents of Calhan, Peyton, Falcon and Ramah will see increased traffic during construction, which includes a mass of trucks bringing in blades for the turbines. The scenery will change, said one pro-wind farm resident; but, “that’s part of progress,” he said.