7 October 2009: harnessing wind energy the way to go

Harnessing wind energy the way to go

Regular readers know I am an admirer of Ted Kennedy because of his broad advocacy for human rights. But that admiration ends on the issue Kennedy lacked foresight: wind farms. Kennedy fought their placement in the ocean within line-of-sight of his Hyannis Port home.

When asked what can be worse than being blind, Helen Keller said, “Having no vision.”

Ironically, viewscape is the last refuge of lukewarm supporters and opponents of wind farms alike, but therein is a logical fallacy: the assumption wind towers are unsightly.

How about a little love here! When properly situated and painted, wind towers can be aesthetically pleasing. In fact, my one disappointment is that I will not be able to point to them from my home and say with pride, “See what we’re doing here in Clear Creek to address climate change and energy independence!”

Legend has it Aeolus, the god of wind, is residing atop the ridges overlooking the Clear Creek Valley and is howling to be harnessed. Happily, in answer to the god’s call, large-scale wind energy is moving close to reality in Clear Creek

Kent Sterret, president of Clear Creek Power, states CCP has been prioritized among competing interests by Xcel to deliver 100 megawatts of electricity by 2011. The key will be to get through the applicant process for approval in the next four to six weeks. Should that happen, Sterret says construction will begin in the spring of 2010 with 40 new employees — locals need apply — hired.

At the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Sept. 30, commissioners Kevin O’Malley and Joan Drury (Harry Dale was not present) reiterated their support for the development of wind energy in Clear Creek.

Drury commented: “These possible projects are good for the county and have so much potential. My hope is that through the Planning Commission hearings and their final recommendations we can arrive at a win-win outcome once an application goes through the entire process.”

O’Malley pointed out that having enough sun and wind is not the issue; it’s about what we need to do to get renewable energy right and in place.

The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation points out 100-megawatt wind farms across Colorado benefit local economies on average with $567,590 in increased property tax revenue, $300,000 to $500,000 in land leases, and plenty of jobs during construction and several permanent high-paying ones. Sterret claims the wind farm will add $200 million to CCC’s tax base.

The sequestering of mine waste that pollutes surface run-off by mixing it with aggregate for the concrete pads will be an added benefit. The excavated dirt in turn could be recycled for road construction, riprap and re-vegetation.

Then there is the potential for increased tourism as folks come to check out another accomplished feat. Imagine taking a walking tour of the site after a visit to the Public Service Museum. Talk about how far we have come!

The final reality of a wind farm will be the outcome of great work and dedication of primarily the folks at CCP but also of supportive individuals throughout CCC and civic organizations such as the CCWF and the CC Sustainability Committee. Credit should be given as well to the county government — the Planning Department and the Board of Commissioners — for being proactive rather than adversarial. As Chris Crouse of the CCWF says, “It takes a village to build a wind farm.”

Peggy Stokstad, president of the Clear Creek Economic Development Corporation, tells me the CCEDC has not taken a formal position yet. “I think,” says Stokstad, “the project will absolutely stand on its own merits as it proceeds through the process, and we look forward to commenting formally at that time.”

Selectman Mary Pat Young, a three-decade Georgetown business owner, is excited about the wind farm nearing fruition. Young notes, “CCC is one of the prime locations for utility-scale renewables, in particular, wind energy. From the maps and studies I’m familiar with, we have a unique opportunity to develop this resource in Clear Creek, given particular ridge lines and wind patterns identified.

“It would benefit Georgetown and our county for numerous reasons: a cleaner environment vs. the burning of fossil fuels; wind being a renewable and sustainable resource; and job creation, economic growth, and a reliable revenue stream for the county.”

Local businessman Tom Wilson concurs, adding: “The most important aspect for everyone is it would create a replacement economy for the Henderson Mine. Those don’t come along everyday, and we have a responsibility to stabilize our financial future so services don’t decline or taxes go up. Projects like this show we can build a strong economy without the sprawling footprint that often comes with economic growth.”

Commissioner Drury brings it home: “I am very concerned about global warming and our dependence on foreign oil. It simply seems responsible for our country and for our county to take advantage of the resources we have to reduce our carbon footprint. We all have a responsibility to protect our planet.”

Wow! Being responsible rather than irresponsible, proactive rather than negative! A Golden Age? Maybe not yet, but it is assuring to see we’re set to get it right.

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