In October, representatives of Clipper Windpower appeared before the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board to present an update to their request for a transmission line easement along the Rock Island Regional Trail, which parallels Highway 24 between Falcon and Peyton.
Clipper plans to build a wind farm south of Calhan and run a transmission line along Highway 24 from Calhan to a substation on Woodmen Road in Falcon, according to the October issue of The New Falcon Herald.
Clipper project manager Krista Gordon had good news for Woodmen Hills residents.
“We have decided … to bury the portion of the transmission line that would be located from the southwest end of Rock Island Regional Trail up to a point a quarter-mile northeast of the intersection of Highway 24 and Judge Orr Road,” Gordon said.
Burying the line for 2.5 miles will add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of the transmission line, she said.
Dave Elliott, president of the Meadowlake Airport Association, said Clipper’s proposed 80 to 100-foot-tall transmission poles could interfere with safe takeoffs and landings at the airport. Its northern boundary is at Judge Orr Road, but the airport must have an area free of tall structures as far away as Highway 24.
“I’m not an engineer, so I don’t know specifically how much further up the trail the line would need to be buried,” Elliott said.
“The Federal Aviation Administration will have to give their blessing on the overhead portion.”
Gordon said Clipper hired a consultant familiar with FAA requirements and has a report showing that the overhead portion of the transmission line is compliant with the FAA.
Clipper would bury more of the transmission line if the FAA or the airport requires it, but burying the line for the length of the entire trail would be a deal breaker, she said.
Clipper also has explored other alternatives with Mountain View Electric Association, such as burying the existing MVEA line at Clipper’s cost and running the Clipper line above it or sharing the new structures that Clipper would build. But Gordon said neither would work because of the extra cost of maintaining an underground line and the issue of ice falling from the Clipper line onto the MVEA line if they shared structures.
She said Clipper considered putting their line on the south side of Highway 24, but they would be required to move the line at their cost if Highway 24 is widened in the future.
Gordon said Clipper is sizing the transmission line for the needs of the wind farm the company has proposed to build a few miles south of Calhan.
“If another project came to us at some point in the future, prior to construction, we’d be happy to entertain discussions about sizing [the line] for both of us,” she said.
Tim Wolken, head of the El Paso County Community Services Department, said the county has proposed a one-time charge of $2.50 per linear foot, or a total of $121,250, for the 48,500-foot easement. It’s the county’s transportation department standard rate for easements, he said.
Clipper’s decision to bury some of the cable will require a 75-foot-wide easement instead of the 50-foot-wide easement the company originally proposed.
The buried part of the line will require two trenches, one for each electrical phase, separated by at least 5 feet.
The additional width is needed to accommodate construction and maintenance equipment, Gordon said, adding that the overhead portion of the line won’t hang over the trail or property lines.
Wolken said he hopes to have a draft of the easement agreement ready for the Parks Advisory Board to review in November.
Ultimately, the board of county commissioners will decide whether to grant the proposed easement, he said.
Gordon said Clipper is currently negotiating with Colorado Springs Utilities for the purchase of 20 to 25 percent of the wind farm’s electricity production, but she declined to disclose any other parties negotiating with Clipper.
Under their current business model, Clipper develops wind projects and then sells them before construction begins, she said. The purchaser could be an investment company, a utility or another developer.
“If we sell the project, the purchaser of the project would be subject to the same restrictions and obligations that we are when we sign the contract,” Gordon said.
Clipper is not in actuality asking the county for an easement. She said they are asking for an option on an easement in case the entire wind farm project falls through for any reason.
Gordon said Clipper has completed biological studies for the wind farm project and will have to complete similar studies for the transmission line, once the line’s final route is known.
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