Wind energy project with Vestas’ wind turbines in Colorado

Black Hills Energy’s proposal for a small wind farm east of Walsenburg received approval this week from the state Public Utilities Commission.

The wind energy project still awaits review by Huerfano County commissioners. The first public hearing on the proposal is set for 2 p.m. Aug. 23, a Huerfano County official said.

The $26.5 million wind power project — part of the utility’s effort to comply with the state’s renewable energy mandates — would feature 16 wind turbines made by Vestas plants in Pueblo and Northern Colorado.

Construction is tentatively set to take place in 2012 and employ 55 workers at the wind farm site, the utility said. The project also will generate annual tax revenue for Huerfano County.

The Huerfano County site "was chosen for its abundant wind resources and proximity to our existing transmission system," Black Hills Vice President Chris Burke said.

The project will bring the utility closer to meeting its state renewable energy mandates and "also provide economic development opportunities in Southern Colorado," he said.

The site is a section of the Busch Ranch about 20 miles northeast of Walsenburg on Highway 10. The size of the wind farm is enough to power about 3,800 homes.

Black Hills plans to partner with a private developer on the construction.

A tentative agreement with one developer, EUI Development LLC, is in place. The utility will take bids from other prospective developers before making a final choice.

Black Hills proposes the project as one piece of its plan to comply with Colorado’s tougher renewable energy standard.

The standard requires renewable energy to make up 30 percent of investor-owned utility’s supplies by 2020.

In teaming Black Hills and Vestas, the project brings together two Pueblo newcomers. South Dakota-based Black Hills took over the former Aquila electric utility franchise in 2008. Denmark-based Vestas opened its Pueblo tower making plant in 2010.

Dennis Darrow,