Nov 152004
 
Authors: Katie Kelley

Farms in Colorado may be changing with the recent passage of Amendment 37 and the latest development in farming: wind.

Wind farms in Colorado may be one of the more logical sources of renewable energy that utility companies will be tapping into once Amendment 37 receives final approval from Colorado's legislature.

Amendment 37 states that all Colorado utility companies with a customer base of 40,000 or more must eventually derive 10 percent of their power from renewable energy resources, and 4 percent of this must be from solar energy.

The amendment requires a gradual increase in the amount of renewable energy used. Utility companies would be required to use renewable energy sources for 3 percent of energy production from 2007 to 2010, 6 percent from 2011 to 2014 and at least 10 percent by 2015.

The initiative is the first of its kind in the nation. While 16 other states already have regulations in place to use renewable energy, Colorado has become the only state to publicly vote on legislation to add the statute to the state's constitution.

"We will be very interested to see what happens," said Mark Stutz, spokesperson for Xcel Energy. "For right now, we are obviously trying to clarify our concerns."

The amendment will affect companies like Colorado Springs Municipal Utility and Xcel Energy, which is the largest energy provider for Colorado and Fort Collins Utilities, which purchases much of its energy from Poudre River Power Authority.

"We are a not-for-profit municipality company owned by citizens of Estes Park, Loveland, Fort Collins and Longmont but we sell to the cities to resell," said John Bleem, division manager of customer services at Poudre River Power Authority. Of these four cities, only Fort Collins has a customer base of more than 40,000, which is why the power authority's board of directors opposed it.

Originally, many Colorado utilities companies and energy providers such as Xcel Energy and the Poudre River Power Authority opposed the initiative because of the statewide mandate of 10 percent, which will likely increase costs of taxpayers as well as the companies. The amendment also puts in place a 50-cent cap on the amount a customer's residential electric bill can increase.

"Our concerns haven't changed in the least," Stutz said. "There is not enough funding and what we consider is unnecessary to have the solar power energy aspect of the amendment."

However, if passed into law, these companies will need to either develop or increase their renewable sources of energy, such as wind farms, to meet the statewide standard.

Other sources of available renewable energy range from geothermal heat to hydroelectric power and hydrogen fuel cells.

As part of the amendment, customers are encouraged with financial incentives to install their own solar electric generator equipment into homes. By doing so, customers are allowed a potential tax rebate if their solar electric is in excess of their annual use. They may then sell the excess energy back to the utility company.

Wind power is in use by several of the power companies to an extent, including Xcel Energy and Poudre River Power Authority.

Xcel Energy developed a wind farm site in Northern Colorado in 1998, the Ponnequin Wind Farm, which has been generating 30 megawatts of energy, Stutz said.

"Currently, there are 30,000 customers that pay an extra premium on their electric to receive the renewable energy," Stutz said.

In addition to wind power, Xcel Energy also uses renewable energy such as hydroelectric power plants, which accounts for 4 percent of the company's energy, refuse-derived and biomass fueled technology across the nation.

Poudre River Power Authority is also the leading provider of wind power to Fort Collins.

"We own and operate 10 wind turbines at our Medicine Bow, Wyo., site," Bleem said.

Fort Collins Utilities provides CSU students living on campus an alternative form of renewable energy instead of using the average coal-burning energy. CSU has become the one of the first universities in the nation to provide its students with this type of alternative energy.

"I think that we need to be more concerned with our environment," said Christa Westerbuhr, a CSU junior psychology major. "Our energy sources are a good way to start looking at that."

 

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