Property owners in the vicinity of the Golden West Wind Energy Project received notification that NextEra Energy Resources, the wind energy company building the wind farm, has initiated a petition requesting a permit to rezone the construction area.
NextEra purchased the project from Fowler Energy in December 2013, after the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners gave their final approval of the wind farm, according to the June 2014 issue of The New Falcon Herald.
When the project was approved in 2013, the plans included up to 147 turbines and 25 miles of transmission line that would connect with the Jackson Fuller Substation on Woodmen Road, according to the item summary form submitted to the EPC Park Advisory Board.
The summary shows that the new proposal includes up to 145 turbines, a substation, an operations and maintenance facility, temporary bath plants, construction offices, meteorological monitoring devices and a 29-mile transmission line.
“There are three main changes to the project that we’re requesting,” said David Gil, NextEra project developer. “One is the placement of the individual turbines. Based on research and analysis and concerns brought up last year, we’ve relocated a number of them to maximize the wind energy, and address some of those concerns. We’ve relocated the turbine closest to Paint Mines Park and moved others to give about a one-quarter mile distance between the park and the closest turbine.
“Second, we’re requesting a permit to use a taller turbine. Last year, we got approval for a turbine 427-feet high. Now, that height could be up to 453 feet. If we use the taller turbine, it uses more wind energy; and we will use less turbines.
“Third, we’re relocating the transmission line — a portion of the line that was almost 4 miles long underground — and that wouldn’t work for Meadow Lake Airport. We rerouted that portion so it is south of the airport and stays above ground.”
Gil said that running a high voltage transmission line underground is not a good idea from an operations and maintenance perspective. Trying to fix problems is extremely difficult, and it is also more expensive to build it underground, he said.
Laura Foye, a resident who received the letter from NextEra and another notification from the county, said she has spoken with Gil several times to try to better understand the project. “When it was first approved, it was going to bring in jobs and money,” she said. “Now, NextEra says that first route is going to be far too expensive for them; and, essentially, they just want to do something that’s less costly and less difficult.
“The approval came through with an existing pathway, but by creating a new pathway through where I live, I’m concerned about the future.”
Foye said Gil told her the project will not affect her property value. “The land has value and the property has value, and I’m suspecting that having the lines go over the property will decrease its value,” she said. “It’s something that I believe affects the value of my property and the desirability; and, quite frankly, I live out here because it’s pretty and not industrial.”
The rezoning plan went before the EPC Park Advisory Board Dec. 10 and is scheduled for a hearing with the EPC Planning Commission for Jan. 6. The hearing will be held at 9 a.m. in the EPC Regional Development Center in Colorado Springs. If the planning commission approves the plan, it will be forwarded to the BOCC for approval.