After enduring a barrage of challenges over the years, a wind farm in the Calhan area likely will be operational by the end of the year.
The 250-megawatt wind farm, which will produce electricity for Xcel Energy, a company that serves Denver and much of Colorado, was originally approved by the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners in December 2013. By that point, the project had experienced years of delays, switches in ownership, and vocal opposition from some residents.
Community reaction has long been mixed. Some residents, including those being paid for the use of their land for wind turbines or other equipment, favored the idea. Often, they called it a boon for the struggling economy. Others feared everything from a loss of views, to noise, to a drop in property values, to health effects.
County approval hardly marked the end of trouble for the project, now owned by NextEra Energy Resources, the nation's biggest wind-power producer. But after purchasing the project from a previous developer and examining the approved plans, NextEra realized it needed to make some changes. Most notably, NextEra found that installing underground transmission lines for the project would be impractical, if not impossible. It asked for changes, including above-ground transmission lines. The county approved the changes earlier this year.
But the changes ushered in more protests. Now, in addition to wind turbines, residents would have to deal with power lines. A group of opponents calling itself the El Paso Property Rights Coalition decided to take action, suing the county and NextEra hoping to reverse the approval.
The lawsuit was dismissed with all parties' agreement last week, and all parties paying their own legal costs. County spokesperson Dave Rose says the decision ends the legal opposition to the wind farm, though some neighbors continue to file complaints.
"The people who were adamantly opposed and the people who were supportive, in my mind, have always been about even," Rose says.
Meanwhile, Rose says, NextEra is ahead of schedule. All 145 wind turbines are now erect. More than 300 utility poles to support 29 miles of transmission lines are in place. NextEra is repairing roads used to haul equipment, and Rose says he expects the roads will be left in better condition than before the project began.
There's not an exact date for the turbines to go operational, but Rose says it's expected before the end of the year.