By Tammy Alhadef
The Pueblo Chieftain
WALSENBURG – Once considered the pipe dream of hippie communities or those wanting to “get off the grid,” wind energy recently has become a viable large-scale pursuit. One local business owner says he’s ready to get in on the action.
Ed Johnson, owner of Sunrise Enterprises, is applying for a $35 million loan to build a wind farm on his land 10 miles west of Walsenburg off Colorado 69.
After years of wind energy remaining too expensive to pursue, Johnson said he can finally “see the light through the clouds,” when it comes to alternative energy in the United States.
Johnson said the guaranteed loan would come from an old program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that has garnered fresh governmental interest with the rising cost of fuel.
With the fuel costs rising daily, the government is looking at sustainable power sources, which gives windy areas around the country the upper hand when it comes to utilizing the much overlooked natural resource.
Sunrise Enterprises plans to build 19 towers on 354 acres during phase 1 of the project, at a cost of $2.5 million per tower. He estimates the towers can generate 47 megawatts of power.
Winds on his land measure at a Class 6, with Class 7 being the optimal rating.
Johnson said he’d eventually like to put another 100 towers on a 20,000 acre piece of land, estimating an additional 300 to 400 megawatts of power generated.
Talks with energy buyers are still under way. Johnson said having a purchase agreement in place for his energy will go a long way toward securing the loan.
British Oil Company, BP, Aquila and Sunflower Electric of Kansas are just some of the companies interested in the project.
Community Banks of Southern Colorado is working with Johnson to secure the loan.
Phase 1 of the project would create full-time jobs for 10 workers. Johnson already is working with John Mall High School to create an educated work force ready to hire when the time comes. He assisted in getting a wind turbine installed at the high school over the summer. The turbine will be used to teach students about wind energy.
Environmental impact studies will have to be done and the county commissioners will have to approve the plans. Barring any problems, Johnson said he hopes to break ground in 2008.
Wind farms are a growing industry on Colorado’s plains.
Baca Energy Green, a group of farmers and landowners, is working to install test towers for a proposed wind farm in Baca County.
The Colorado Wind Project, which is the fifth largest wind farm in the nation and is jointly owned by PPM Energy and Shell WindEnergy Inc., is located 23 miles south of Lamar.
In May, PPM Energy, ScottishPower’s competitive U.S. energy business, announced it would begin construction this fall on the 75-megawatt Twin Buttes Wind Power Project west of Lamar in the southeast corner of Bent County.
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