March 26, 2015

Black Hills gains unlikely allies for wind farm proposal

By Jessi Mitchell | KOAA | March 25, 2015 |

PUEBLO – Unlikely allies are coming to the defense of Black Hills Energy as the company seeks approval for a new wind farm.

Black Hills has faced lots of criticism over the years for high costs to customers, but this new wind farm could save Pueblo’s citizens millions of dollars in the long-run.

Advocates for Pueblo’s poor along with alternative energy supporters have been trying to find a way to lower utility bills in the city through the group RE-VOLT Pueblo. Black Hills representatives say a new 60-megawatt wind farm would do just that, saving up to $113 million dollars over 25 years.

But the initial proposal was denied by the Public Utilities Commission, saying it would cost too much.

“We were just shocked when the PUC decided that we had been strained enough in our costs that they denied them the permit to put the wind farm up,” says Sister Nancy Crafton, director of Los Pobres.

Crafton has been one of the most vocal critics of Black Hills Energy. She says the fight against high energy rates is far from over, but the wind farm would be beneficial to everyone.

Black Hills representative Bret Jones says, “There’s I think a general recognition amongst a variety of parties that there’s some potential real benefit to our customers here.”

The wind farm is part of Black Hills’ effort to produce more renewable energy to comply with new state regulations. For 2015, 20% of the energy has to come from renewable sources, and in 2020 it will increase to 30%.

Last year the requirement was just 12% and Jones says Black Hills produced 12.5% from renewable sources.

Black Hills filed for a reconsideration on the proposal last week, but the PUC continues to come down hard on them, especially when it comes to the $70 million dollar natural gas plant already in the works. “They’re concerned about those rate impacts,” says Jones. “They’re concerned about potential rate impacts associated with the wind farm, but the point that we’re trying to make is there are also significant savings from the wind farm.”

“We’re going to get those high costs no matter what,” says Crafton, “because this is the way the corporation works, but in the long run it’ll be a blessing for us, and we can see that. It’s a beginning.”

Black Hills is still working on a way to reach 30% renewable energy by 2020.

If approved, they hope to have the wind farm up and running by the end of this year. That will take them up to about 18%.

The PUC has 30 days to respond to the reconsideration request.

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