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New wind project to boost Southern Colorado economy
Photo courtesy: Black Hills Energy Facebook

By Joshua Pilkington

Black Hills Energy has been leading a charge to provide more renewable energy to its southern Colorado system over the past year.

In June 2017 the company received Colorado Public Utilities Commission approval to add up to 60 megawatts of renewable energy to serve its customers in southern Colorado.

ôOur commitment to renewable energy for southern Colorado continues with the Colorado PUCĺs recent approval of our Electric Resource and Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plans, allowing us the opportunity to add up to 60 MW of renewable energy,ö said Christopher Burke, vice president of electric operations, Black Hills Energy in a 2017 release. ôThis additional renewable energy continues our strong record of leadership in the advancement of Coloradoĺs renewable energy objectives.öá

That advancement has taken another step further with Black Hill Energyĺs recent announcement that Black Hills subsidiary, Black Hills Electric Generation, LLC, has been selected for a 60-megawatt wind project in Colorado.

According to a release, the wind project was selected through a rigorous, competitive solicitation process conducted by Colorado Electric and overseen by an independent evaluator approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The addition of 60 megawatts of eligible energy resources was part of Colorado Electricĺs commission-approved 2016 Electric Resource Plan.

The purchase of the 60 megawatts of wind energy comes through a 25-year power purchase agreement between Colorado Electric and Black Hills Electric Generation.

What the project means is a $71 million Busch Ranch II wind project to be constructed and in service by the end of 2019. The project is expected to be built near Colorado Electricĺs Busch Ranch Wind Farm in Huerfano and Las Animas counties, just southeast of Pueblo. That construction will provide additional economic opportunities for southern Colorado, as well as lower energy costs for consumers.

ôThis renewable energy contract is a critical step for our Colorado Electric utility to comply with the state renewable energy mandate,ö said Linn Evans, president and chief operating officer of Black Hills in a release. ôThe contract will provide Colorado Electricĺs utility customers cost-effective renewable energy. Construction of the wind farm will provide economic development opportunities for southern Colorado.öá

What Black Hills Energy has been able to accomplish with renewable energy in southern Colorado falls in line with the overall goals of the state to continue to be a national leader in renewable energy.

According to the Colorado Energy Office, with investments in wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, small hydroelectric, and other renewable energy resources increasing over the last decade, Colorado has become that leader in renewable energy.

Since 2004, when the state passed the first voter-led Renewable Energy Standard, the state legislature has increased the minimum requirements three times. That has led to the development of hundreds of new renewable energy projects across the state.

Itĺs little surprise that almost 80 percent of Coloradoĺs renewable energy by source comes from wind, while hydropower (about 16 percent) and solar (about 4 percent) make up the other two primary sources.

As far as overall energy is concerned, wind provided more than 17 percent of total electricity generated in the state in 2016 and that number is expected to increase as more municipalities and energy providers in the state move toward incorporating renewable sources.

Aside from legislation, technology has also played a central role in Coloradoĺs renewable energy economy. Innovation and the reduction in manufacturing costs have placed wind and solar resources as not only the most prolific, but also cost effective resources in the open market.

Wind energy, like the Busch Ranch II wind project that will be headed by Black Hills Electric Energy and Colorado Electric, has become the least cost resource for utilities building new electric generation.





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