Sep 292008
 
Authors: Johnny Hart

Larimer County approved regulations last week that will allow CSU to begin the application process to build a wind farm north of Fort Collins to keep up with the university’s goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2020.

The farm, dubbed the Green Power Project, will eventually reside on university-owned Maxwell Ranch, a 9,000-acre lot located on the Colorado-Wyoming border.

University utilization of the site could afford undergraduate and graduate students research opportunities in biology, engineering and social science, said Bill Farland, senior vice president for research at CSU.

“We will use this for wind research along with energy production,” Farland said.

Farland also said the university and other consumers would be able to negotiate “power purchase agreements” through their energy company to receive wind power.

CSU acquired the farm in the 1970s after the Maxwell family donated it to the university, but previous to this year, the site was only used for research.

In March, the university announced its intentions to turn the ranch into a wind-powered energy system.

Before the university’s plans could get underway, Wind Holding, the corporation CSU contracted to operate the wind farm, needed to “determine the amount and velocity of wind on the property as well as biological impacts,” according to the project’s Web site.

Last week, the Larimer County Planning Commission unanimously recommended that new regulations for the proceeding of large energy projects be implemented, meaning that proposed energy projects will now have set guidelines to help proponents put plans into action.

If the recommendations are approved, CSU will be able to apply for permits to meet zoning and regulation requirements that will allow them to begin work on the goal of redeveloping the farm.

“We are very active in sustainable practices. This will be part of our sustainability package,” Farland said.

CSU will lease the wind farm from Wind Holding and could be an investor in the construction phase.

Jon Little, marketing and community relations manager for Platte River Power Authority, said wind farms have two advantages: reduced emissions and endless supply.

The drawback for PRPA is that, because they need back up energy sources, it’s more expensive for the company to operate wind turbines.

“At the present time, it’s more expensive,” Little said. “It’s cheaper to erect a wind farm, but (you) can’t compare it with a ‘firm source’ (a backup power plant) because the wind doesn’t blow all the time.”

Eric Sutherland, a Fort Collins resident who is critical of green initiatives such as Maxwell Ranch, said CSU is not being transparent with their plan, questioning, “Who (is CSU) going to sell the power to?”

“It’s not easy being green,” Sutherland said. “It’s f***ing hard.”

Sutherland said renewable energy subsidies are set to expire at the end of this year, and he questions whether CSU will be truly committed if they indeed do.

“The long and short of it is that (renewable energy programs) are heavily subsidized, and those subsidies are set to expire,” Sutherland said.

Farland said many developers are wary because tax incentives are renegotiated yearly, but CSU will remain committed.

“I think there is a strong sense that the tax incentive will be renewed for at least the next year,” Farland said.

Senior Reporter Johnny Hart can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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