Articles from Colorado
Windmills that Vail Resorts recently proposed to put at Eagle's Nest atop Vail Mountain are little more than "toys," one energy expert said. "They would have trouble running a 10th Mountain hut," said Randy Udall, former director of Aspen's Community Office for Resource Efficiency, in an e-mail, referring to the backcountry cabins near Vail. The new proposal significantly downsizes a 2003 plan that would have put four 100-foot-tall, 100-kilowatt windmills on Ptarmigan Ridge above the Back Bowls, creating enough power to run four chairlifts. ...The $400,000 windmills proposed in 2003 would have powered four chairlifts and paid for themselves within a decade, Vail Associates said. But the company withdrew the proposal shortly after it was proposed. The reasons are unclear, although the Division of Wildlife expressed concerns about dangers to birds. The project would have needed approval from the U.S. Forest Service, which owns most of Vail Mountain. "We decided not to pursue the 2003 wind turbine proposal for a variety of reasons that seemed relevant and practical at the time," ...
These days we read and hear more and more about the exponential increases in renewable energy, particularly large wind farms such as those sprouting up on Colorado's front range and eastern plains. Colorado's Amendment 37 requires the state's largest utility companies to produce 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. A subsequent legislative action doubled that to 20 percent by 2020. ...This is all great news, right? Not if you are an independent grid system operator, and not if you're expecting all of this large scale wind power to help reduce global warming carbon emissions. Wind power is by nature a notoriously intermittent source of power. Wind simply doesn't blow steadily all of the time. Therefore, the power output of all large scale wind farms goes up and down dramatically throughout the day, regardless of the demand for power on the grid. ...Without energy diversity, the more renewable power we mandate, the more unreliable the grid will become. The laws of physics simply can't be amended.
Wind is in as an alternative energy source, and Larimer County is making provision for those hoping to harness it. The first step will come on May 12 when the county commissioners consider adopting amendments to the land-use code governing smaller-scale wind generators. Then in August a separate set of amendments is expected to come before the commissioners, applying to electric transmission lines and power plants. Any larger-scale wind farms also would fall under that broad definition.
The coal burning power plant at Rawhide constructed 25 years ago provides PRPA with 70 percent of its energy needs. Of the remaining gap, 17 percent is generated through hydro projects in scattered locations with the remaining 13 percent gained by natural gas, wind and power purchases made from surrounding utilities. Pending federal carbon tax legislation could make coal plant operations increasingly more costly forcing many utilities, including PRPA, to turn to cleaner, albeit more expensive, energy forms suc wind. Historically, PRPA has bolstered its renewable portfolio through the purchase of renewable energy credits, or RECs, that allow it to invest in wind farms owned by others who pay for main-tenance and repairs. If a carbon tax were instituted, PRPA would not get credit for RECs and would only see benefit from its homegrown Medicine Bow wind project built nearly a decade ago. Last year, wind power generated 1 percent of PRPA's total energy, Moeck said. ..."Basically we're becoming more dependent on electricity every day, Troxell said. "It's not simply the plasma screens and air conditioners, either. We live in a digital world that is powered by electricity ..."
The company, owned by local Gerry Dameron, has sold renewable energy credits to individuals and businesses across Boulder County ...to allow the companies to offset their electricity use with clean renewable energy. ...Because it's difficult for a customer to know if the money they pay companies like Clean and Green actually make it back to the wind farms, most reputable brokers are certified by a third party. Dameron decided last fall not to renew third-party certification for his company's wind credits or file the proper annual paperwork with the Colorado Department of State. ...Besides acting as president of Clean and Green, Dameron is also president of Patriot Wind, another local company with the goal to "deliver 50+ successful wind-energy projects to progressive communities in the U.S. over the coming 10 years," according to the company's Web site. On Friday, the answering machine at Patriot Wind answered, "Hello, you've reached Village Power."
Working on an object nearly 30 stories high can be a harrowing experience for anyone. For the crews that maintain the wind turbines in southeastern Colorado maintaining a safe working environment is paramount. ...He said one of the prevailing themes from the tour was the necessity of emergency personnel to be in top physical condition when attempting a rescue from a turbine tower. Cook said the rescue personnel have to climb over two hundred feet of stairs with equipment to reach the top of the towers, an exercise that can tire many rescuers and potentially detract from their ability to adequately perform their duties.
Green-e, the company hired by PRPA to track renewable energy credits, said it can't guarantee PRPA funds are actually going to targeted renewable projects. Renewable Energy Credits are essentially tradable certificates of proof that one kWh of electricity has been generated by a renewable source. Green-e, owned by the Center for Resource Solutions, audits the sale of renewable energy credits, ensuring that the value green electricity has on the environment is only purchased once through the sale of credits. But the company cannot verify money going to the owners of renewable energy projects such as Shell is actually being invested in the energy project and not going into the general fund.
Developers will take bids from power generators, distributors and others for space on a proposed power line to transmit electricity from eastern Wyoming to the Colorado Front Range. Developers of the "Wyoming-Colorado Intertie" project will hold an open-season auction in June, hoping to collect commitments for up to 900 megawatts of transmission. Wyoming wind-generated power is expected to make up a significant portion of the power committed to the line, according to officials. If the June auction is successful, the line could be built and put into operation by mid-2013.
The state requires municipally owned Springs Utilities to derive 1 percent from renewables annually from 2008 to 2010, 3 percent from 2011 to 2014, 6 percent from 2015 to 2019 and 10 percent by 2020. More daunting is the possibility that federal lawmakers will impose carbon taxes to drive down reliance on coal. No one knows how much that would cost, but Springs Utilities could pay $150 million a year - about 16 percent of its current budget. That's a big incentive to find alternatives, and wind is one of those. ...The city's most recent poll showed 76 percent of residential customers surveyed are willing to pay $1 to $2 more a month to support wind. That's the estimated financial impact of using 50 megawatts of wind, which translates to 3.3 percent of the city's energy needs per year. The reason it doesn't account for more is that wind is an intermittent resource, and power is available from it only 35 percent of the time, Knopp said. Utilities' customer poll also showed 71 percent of the city's business customers support wind if it causes bills to increase by 1 percent or less.
Much needs to be determined, but the potential for an El Paso County wind farm already has some elected officials and residents discussing what role - if any - local lands and workers might play in the future of alternative energy. "It is not really up to me; it is up to the property owners," said Commissioner Amy Lathen, whose district would house the wind farm. "Some are very excited about it, and in others we have had owners ask us not to do that. Otherwise, obviously, it is another source of power and it generates that power and revenue for those property owners. And that is all great." Opposition to the project could be fierce. ...Clipper's turbines are 2.5 megawatts, some of the largest on the market.
Colorado is vulnerable due to its current low prices is in its efforts to implement renewable energy solutions. While other states, including California and Massachusetts, take on large scale efforts for wind, solar and other renewable and clean energy production opportunities, the low cost of energy in Colorado makes these energy investments by utilities, private companies, and Colorado residents, not economically viable when compared to the current low cost of traditional fossil fuel based energy in Colorado. This means that, in spite of our Governor's strong emphasis on making Colorado the renewable energy state, current low prices for traditional energy hinder Coloradans, our venture capital sector, and our companies from jumping on this clean energy bandwagon with significant investment.
A giant wind farm in northeast Weld County may be a groundbreaking model of how to generate clean, renewable energy while protecting wildlife occupying the same space. But it's also been on the receiving end of some environmental criticism. ...Ken Strom, director of bird conservation for Audubon Colorado, said he is disappointed that Cedar Creek's developers did not move all the turbines away from the escarpment. "In terms of the outcome of the hearings, I don't think (our concerns) were adequately addressed," he said. "I think they tried to meet a number of our concerns but they fought to move a minimum of the turbines." Strom notes that some birds will be killed as a result of having the turbines within their traditional nesting areas and others will simply avoid the area out of fear of the constantly whooshing towers.
Some components on Vestas Wind Systems-manufactured wind turbines at Platte River Power Authority's Medicine Bow Wind Project are failing more than 15 years earlier than expected, according to PRPA. Since the Medicine Bow, which is in southern Wyoming, went online in 1998, 30 major outages have occurred on the wind farm's nine turbines due to component failure, said John Bleem, PRPA division manager. Although outages vary, Bleem said repairs have led to turbines being down for as long as three months and costing as much as $100,000 - paid for by Vestas under its manufacturer warranty set to expire in 2011.
The Land Use Department has scheduled a Thursday afternoon forum to collect ideas for revising current regulations to provide more clarity and possible flexibility for owners of property in unincorporated Boulder County who might want to install turbine facilities. Among the current Land Use Code requirements that might be standing in the way of such projects, Oxenfeld said, are maximum-height limits for structures in rural Boulder County. Those height restrictions vary, depending on the zoning district involved. Structures in residential districts, for example, can now be no taller than 30 feet above ground level, which would rule out a rooftop-mounted wind turbine if the tallest point of the house is already at or near that height.
Clean and Green is one of many brokers in the United States selling renewable energy credits, or RECs, which allow customers with no direct access to wind power to buy the environmental benefits of renewable energy produced elsewhere. But at the end of last year, the Boulder-based company dropped its nationally recognized certification that lets customers know they're actually getting what they're buying. ...Clean and Green has no problem with the certification program, Executive Director Gerry Dameron said, but couldn't justify the cost anymore. "We called Green-e and said, 'Look, we appreciate what you guys do, and we'd love to be Green-e certified in the future, but we can't afford all the fees," he said. "We can't afford to spend $6,000 a year. Our company has never made a profit, and I've never drawn a salary, not one dime."
Walker envisions the country eventually embracing wind and solar energy. "It's coming, if people want to fight it or not," she says. For the moment, at least, some Calhan neighbors do want to fight it. And county commissioners seem likely to deny Clipper the permit for Walker's property. Jim Bensberg and Amy Lathen, reacting to comments from nearby property owners, opposed granting a permit for the tower at their Feb. 14 meeting, voting 2-1 against commission chair Dennis Hisey. ...Regardless of the outcome, that dust-up hints at disputes to come if and when Clipper or another company seeks to raise wind turbines in the county.
The Fort Collins City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night that will allow Platte River Power Authority to put two 60-meter meteorological towers on the city's Meadow Springs Ranch property to collect detailed wind-speed and other weather data during an 18-month period as PRPA investigates potential wind sites. ..."Wherever the wind is located, there is still a very complex transmission system that needs to be put in place," she said. "Putting the (meteorological) towers up is very preliminary to see if there is potential for a wind (farm) up there ... It's still far away at this point."
Austin Energy customers are one reason the agency is moving ahead so rapidly, he said. They're willing to pay more for renewables - so much so, the program had to close when all the energy was spoken for. When the program reopened this month, most of the available energy sold out within the first week to industrial companies, despite a price difference of 2 cents per kilowatt hour. ...He also noted that adding renewables doesn't change customer expectations. "They expect near-perfect reliability," he said, "and they expect it at a low price." Springs Utilities, which is heavily reliant on coal to power its electric plants, had planned to build another coal plant within the next decade. But in the past six months, City Council members have said they want to delay the plant or cut its size by supplementing with renewables or managing demand better. Councilman Randy Purvis, who attended Wednesday's session, said Colorado Springs customers are like Austin's - they've said on surveys they're willing to pay more for alternatives, such as wind. But so far, Springs Utilities has offered only a small amount of wind, about 1 megawatt, and sells it to customers who sign up to pay more.
While there are some small hydroelectric generation projects in Colorado, the bulk of renewable energy is provided by wind turbines. Under the law, solar electric is required to meet at least 4 percent of the renewable energy for investor-owned utilities. "The problem is, the wind doesn't blow all the time and the sun doesn't shine all the time," said Gary Schmitz, chief economist for the Energy Forum. "The purpose of the study was to look at how many of these will we have to build to get that amount of energy." The answer is somewhere between 1,700 and 2,000 more wind turbines that produce between 1.5 and 2 megawatts each, or roughly five times current numbers. Solar capacity would have to increase about sixfold from current levels. Power providers say they can reach those levels without much economic disruption, although requiring larger amounts of renewable energy would begin to strain financial resources, Smith said.
Xcel's voluntary wind power customers in Colorado will be hit with higher bills beginning next year. But regular customers will benefit from lower electric bills, according to Xcel filings with regulators late Tuesday. The utility says fully subscribed customers of WindSource will have to pay higher premiums - about $13 more per month compared with regular customers - because they aren't benefiting from declining natural gas prices enjoyed by regular customers. Fully subscribed customers get all their electricity from wind power. Also, savings from wind power seen in past years, when wind farms were replacing old and costly natural gas-fired power plants, are declining as wind farms are replacing newer and more efficient power plants. ...However, wind industry advocates said the current lower price of coal and natural gas does not reflect their true price. Also, those fuels likely will pay a carbon tax in the near future that would make them a more expensive source of power generation compared to wind, a freely available source.