A few years ago, Clipper Windpower had plans to build a wind power farm near Calhan, Colo. In February 2013, Fowler Wind Energy purchased the project, referred to as Golden West Power Partners, from Clipper. The project is under way.
Previously, Colorado Springs Utilities had plans to utilize the power, but the current power purchase agreement is with Xcel Energy. David Hazel, project manager for Multiband Renewals, the company Fowler hired to develop the project, said the agreement is exclusive with Xcel Energy; however, they can do what they want with the energy.
Hazel said the project has been ongoing for a number of years, starting with Clipper Windpower and continuing with Fowler Wind Energy. “The process of developing a wind farm can take between two and 15 years,” he said. “It is very involved. You need to find a location, collect, analyze and interpret the wind data. Developing a wind farm and building a wind farm are two different things. We will develop it, and then hire a contractor to come in and build it.”
The contractor who wins the project will bring in a hiring trailer and hire locally. Jobs will be available for building roads and raising the windmills. “We hire and buy as much as we can locally – equipment rentals, dirt, gravel and workers,” Hazel said.
Fowler Wind Energy is in the beginning stages of the application process with El Paso County. They planned to have the application submitted by the end of September. Hazel said building will likely begin within the first quarter of 2014. “At the end of October, there will be a land owner meeting and that is when the land owners will see the diagrams and map of the wind farm itself,” he said. “They will detail specifics and outline construction schedules, and give land owners a good overview of what is happening in the next year and a half.” The wind farm will be located directly to the south and to the east of Calhan.
Residents will see road construction before the wind farm can be built. “We have to basically beef up the roads because in their condition right now they are not up to having the equipment come in,” Hazel said. His company is required to return the landscape to its current condition – or better. “All the improvements we do obviously stay,” Hazel said. “We just can’t walk away and leave it worse than it was when we walked on.” Funding for the wind farm and roads is provided entirely by Fowler Wind Energy. “The company finances and funds it. None is local tax,” he said. “It is 100 percent our company – Fowler is basically the bank.”
Each turbine will cost more than one million dollars, Hazel said. The turbines are mostly self-sufficient but there is emergency backup power in case of a problem or the turbines need to be shut down for maintenance or any other reason. “There are no emissions from them these days at all,” Hazel said, adding that the windmills’ nickname is “the brilliant machine.” The windmills (developed by General Electric) are also grid-friendly, more so than any previous models. “We believe it is the best one out there,” Hazel said.
Residents in Falcon had expressed concern about electromagnetic radiation from the power lines. Hazel said the power route they are bringing in is buried along part of Rock Island Trail, parallel to Highway 24. Lines will be up on poles through open country – not close to homes.
Dave Elliott, Meadow Lake Airport president, has concerns as well. Hazel and Elliott have met to discuss airport safety, and both said safety is a top priority. “The Federal Aviation Administration made a determination that we need to bury our lines because of the flight line,” Hazel said. Airport officials determined a need to bury the lines beyond the FAA recommendations. “We prefer to be safe versus literally sorry,” he said.
Elliott said there is airspace protection, and an aeronautical study – an obstruction evaluation – that was completed and published had not been shared with Meadow Lake. When they found out, they did have objections because airspace was penetrated by the power lines. Elliott said they expressed their concern with the new management team for the project, and they seemed to be willing to work with the airport.
“The concern is that we are at 6,873 feet elevation. We have less air, it is less dense,” Elliott said. “Airplanes do not perform as well in this altitude as they do at sea level. Plan on less horsepower, which means it takes a longer takeoff run, and then climbing much slower. Going north, you are climbing into rising terrain.” He requested that Fowler Wind Energy take into consideration a 40:1 ratio slope, rather than a 20:1 slope, which requires burying more miles of lines than initially planned. The reasoning behind this is that the state and aviation plan is to become an instrumented (using instruments instead of visuals only) airport, which requires the greater ratio, Elliott said. An instrumented airport also allows pilots all-weather capability.
Hazel said his company also has been working with the Calhan school district, and they’ve donated money to the athletic program. “We’re trying to educate students about the project and what is going on in their community,” he said. “Wind turbines will be in their backyard for essentially the next 30 years.” Hazel is in regular contact with the Calhan community, and said there is not much opposition from the residents. “The economic boost itself is good. People like to be taken care of,” he said. “When I talk about it, it gives me the chills because it is that important. I really believe in it. It’s a professional but mostly personal goal that I’d like to see through.”