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.
Health impacts of Calhan wind farm debated (this goes with the above story)
By Jason Gray
Noise, subsonic pressure waves, electromagnetic radiation and shadows are some of the concerns Calhan and Falcon residents have about the new wind turbine farm project being developed in Calhan.
The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners approved the Multiband Renewables Golden West Power Partners wind turbine farm in December by a 3-1 vote. Many residents have spoken out about possible health and safety impacts on neighboring properties.
According to the Industrial Wind Action Group, an organization of environmentalists and energy experts challenging the wind power industry, “The rapid growth of industrial wind energy has been fostered by policies that, while well intentioned, fail to reflect wind energy’s limitations and its impacts on our environment, economy and quality of life.”
Wind Action published a 2007 study of residents who lived around a wind turbine project in the United Kingdom – 81 percent of residents within 2 kilometers of the turbines stated they believed their health was negatively affected by the turbines. Migraines increased by 25 percent and ringing in the ears increased 20 percent among residents studied.
A study in New Zealand published in 2010 said the “wooshing” sound of the turbine blades can be heard up to 4 kilometers away. “Research has indicated that people are significantly more annoyed by equivalent constant sound levels produced by turbines than by aircraft, roadway or railroad sources,” said Dr Daniel Shepherd, quoted in the study.
Commissioner Amy Lathen, who voted against the project, said she visited the wind farm in Limon to consider the impacts of the Calhan project. “I stood under these wind turbines and listened and videoed,” Lathen wrote in a release to The New Falcon Herald. “I sat within the shadows of the machines and considered their impacts.”
Shadow flicker, the strobe-like effect of the sun being briefly shadowed by the spinning turbine blades, was considered by the company as it planned tower placement. Once the farm is completed, the company will do environmental impact studies after two years to make sure the pre-project data was correct, the company representatives told the commissioners. According to comments by Dr. Michael Nissenbaum of the Northern Maine Medical center cited by Wind Action, shadow flicker can cause headaches, dizziness and increase in blood pressure. “The World Health Organization has identified children, along with the elderly, as being particularly susceptible,” Nissenbaum said.
“Turbines have been sited to reduce the shadow flicker on participating and non-participating land owners,” according Golden West. The company noted that “complaints will be addressed within the established complaint process.” The county negotiated a complaint process between the county and the company allowing residents to submit health issues and negative effects of the wind farm. The company must address the issues within 30 days.
Falcon residents along U.S. Highway 24 between the project property and the Falcon substation where the produced energy is connected to the power grid were concerned about electromagnetic radiation from the power lines that will be installed. Some research by the World Health Organization cited by residents at the county hearing shows adverse health effects from long term exposure to increased power line capacity, including childhood leukemia, miscarriage and Alzheimer’s disease. The company previously agreed to bury the lines from Meadowlake Airport through the properties adjacent to Woodmen Hills homes.
“I will work with the company and all of the residents as issues arise and in order to resolve any potential conflicts,” Lathen said in her statement. “Golden West has been very responsive, and I believe will be a very good partner in our community. This project has been approved and so we will move forward together to make it as beneficial for El Paso County as possible.”
Editor’s note: more on Lathen’s statement in the Letters to the editor section.
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