By Gail Kalinoski
Denver—Colorado, already a leader in generating wind power in the United States, is about to get its biggest wind farm. The 600-megawatt project is expected to be built in eastern Colorado and produce enough power for 180,000 homes in the state.
Few details are available but the wind farm would likely cost its owner, Xcel Energy, between $900 million and $1.2 billion to construct, according to the Denver Business Journal. Xcel, a major U.S. electric and natural gas company, operates in eight Western and Midwestern states, including Colorado. The company, through its local subsidiary Public Service Co. of Colorado, supplies 65 percent of the state’s residents with about 2,566 megawatts of electricity from wind, The Denver Post reported.
The wind turbines will be supplied by Vestas Wind Systems, which currently has about 4,000 employees in Colorado at several manufacturing facilities. The Denmark-based company is one of the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturers and has a North American headquarters in Portland, Ore.
This week’s announcement about the new wind farm came at Vestas’ wind turbine nacelle factory in Brighton, Colo. The nacelle houses all of the generating components of a wind turbine, including the gearbox. Xcel and Vestas executives were joined at the plant by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and executives with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which released its U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report that day.
The report noted that American wind power supported a record 88,000 jobs as of this year, up 20 percent from 2015. The job growth coincided with wind ranking number one as America’s leading source of new generating capacity, outpacing solar and natural gas, according to the AWEA. The association also noted the job growth led to more wind project development and construction in 2015, requiring more than 38,000 employees. Colorado is fourth in the top five U.S. states with the most wind energy employees–over 6,000 last year and fifth in adding wind power capacity.
That number will grow with the new wind farm.
“An investment in the wind power industry and in wind projects generates new jobs, economic development in rural counties and clean air benefits to all Coloradans,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement.
The Brighton plant will build the 300 wind turbines needed for the eastern Colorado project. Chris Brown, president of Vestas North America, said the order for the new wind farm would keep Brighton and three other Colorado factories busy for three months, the Denver Business Journal reported.
A statement from Vestas headquarters in Denmark would only confirm that the company had entered into a conditional agreement to supply wind turbines for a 600 megawatt project in the U.S. Brown and David Eves, president & CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, also did not supply too many details about the project such as exact location and how much land would be needed.
More information about the new wind farm will be provided once the Colorado Public Utilities Commission approves the project, possibly as soon as May, the officials said. If approved, the project could be operating by December 2018, according to the Denver Business Journal.