On March 9, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a request for an overlay rezoning of 272 acres of property, zoned agricultural 35 (A-35), to a Wind and/or Solar Energy Generation Plan Overlay District. The property is located north of Judge Orr Road, south of Funk Road, and bisected by McQueen Road in Calhan.|
According to the EPC Land Development Code, property zoned A-35 is “primarily intended to accommodate rural communities and lifestyles, including the conservation of farming, ranching and agricultural resources.”
The approved overlay district will allow the applicants, NextEra Energy Resources LLC, and its subsidiary, Grazing Yak Solar LLC, to construct a solar energy array (solar panel grouping) on the property, which will be known as the Grazing Yak Solar Array.
According to the application documents, the Golden West Wind Energy Generation Project, also owned by NextEra, has an existing substation to which the Grazing Yak project will connect to deliver electricity from there to the Jackson-Fuller Substation in Falcon.
In an email to “The New Falcon Herald,” Bryan Garner, director of communications for NextEra, wrote, “No overhead transmission lines will be required (to make the connection to the substation). There is a very short underground transmission line to facilitate connection to the existing substation. Easements for this line have been secured.”
Garner, who declined to speak to the NFH in favor of email correspondence, wrote that the 35 megawatt array will feature about 125,000 6-foot-by-4-foot photovoltaic solar panels designed to track with the angle of the sun to maximize the amount of clean, renewable energy that they can produce.
Construction of the project should last about six months from the time they break ground, which is dependent on when the appropriate permits have been obtained, he wrote. “The project is expected to become operational by the end of 2019,” Garner wrote.
The solar array itself will produce almost no noise, but typical construction noise and traffic will be present during the construction period, he wrote.
“It is expected to create 150 to 200 construction jobs, providing an economic uplift for the local area,” Garner wrote. Those jobs are temporary construction jobs since the array, once operational, is remotely monitored and requires little on-site maintenance, he wrote.
“The project represents an approximately $40 million capital investment in El Paso County,” Garner wrote. “It will provide approximately $5.2 million in additional tax revenue for El Paso County over its first 30 years in operation — money that can be used to enhance local roads, schools and services.”
The NFH reached out to Amy Folsum from El Paso County; she did not return multiple phone calls.
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On March 1, David Healy, attorney with Dudley, Sellers, Healy, Heath & Desmond, PLLC, in Tallahassee, Florida, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Kevin Kohmetscher and “other similarly situated individuals” against NextEra Energy Resources Inc., to stop the company from operating industrial wind turbines near residential communities. NextEra owns the Golden West Wind Energy Center in Calhan.
Wind farm naysayers getting their day in court
Class action lawsuit filed against NextEra Energy Resources over wind turbines
By Lindsey Harrison
Cindy Cobb, a resident who lives near the wind farm, said she, her husband and her son are part of the lawsuit. She said the wind farm, which includes 145, 453-foot-tall industrial turbines and has been operational since October 2015, is responsible for the death of more than 60 of her animals and the ongoing health issues she and her family have developed.
“We have well over $25,000 worth of dead animals,” she said. “My animals are extra income and we are struggling now. We have had to buy grass for our animals 265 days per year because there is nothing out here for them to eat anymore. It (the wind farm) has taken everything I have.”
The lawsuit alleges that industrial turbines cause the following: intermittent shadows cast by the blades that obscure sunlight as they rotate, creating a strobe-like effect; audible noise described as a pulsating or thumping sound; and inaudible low frequency sound waves, all of which can result in negative impacts to one’s health.
The lawsuit also alleges: “Many who reside near Defendant’s (NextEra’s) wind farms are unable to move due to the financial strain caused by the decreased value of their property and the inability to find a buyer willing to live near a wind farm.”
While the lawsuit asks for relief in the form of compensation for damages caused by the wind farm, Cobb said all she and her family want is to sell their house and leave the area. “We just want to get out of here,” she said.
In response to a phone call to Bryan Garner, director of communications for NextEra, he sent the following email: “We don’t comment on pending litigation.”
Cobb said she knows the lawsuit could take months to years to be resolved, but she is appreciative that someone is finally doing something on her family’s behalf.