Wherein Your Stalwart Opinion Writer Decides to Move Things Along
By Greg Hill
Howdy. This will be my second-to-last piece on the Great Renewable Land Rush in Yuma County. There is certainly much, much more to be said on the matter, but, well…I’m getting bored. There have been moments when this series has veered dangerously close to journalism, a prospect that absolutely terrifies me. I’m a novelist, for crying out loud. The only things I want to research are historical lunar calendars so I can keep my moon phases straight when my characters look at the sky.
Plus, I’m going on vacation in a few days.
Anyway, if I’m getting bored, then you, dear reader, must be positively comatose. So, in the interest of laziness and mercy, let’s hammer out some final details for this penultimate piece.
Here are some questions I posed to Greg Brophy, Colorado director of The Western Way a conservative environmental group that, amongst other things, advocates for solar and wind power on the High Plains:
GH: Will the power companies [such as Engie, whom I profiled in my previous piece] hire local folks for the construction/maintenance of the wind turbines?
BROPHY: Yes. Typically, the labor pool is a mix of local vendors/workers and skilled construction workers who specialize in building wind (and solar) projects, some of those may live in the area also. Plus, the crews stay in the area, renting houses and buying food. Construction is a really big shot in the arm for local economies. For operations, there are typically two full-time local jobs per 35 wind towers. A 500-megawatt development will place seven or eight workers in the area. It’s highly likely those workers will have been trained at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling as their wind tech training program is renowned in the industry.
GH: Will Yuma County collect taxes (or other fees) from Xcel and/or the power companies?
BROPHY: Wind and solar projects pay local property taxes based on how much energy they produce. They pay substantial taxes to the taxing districts in the counties. The great thing about wind farms is that once they are built, they require almost no services from the county, so their payments are hugely beneficial. Basically, the front range is sending money to rural counties to use in the county general fund. Most counties also charge an impact fee. Typically, this is a 1-percent fee on the value of the development, so a $500 million development would pay a one-time fee to the county of $5 million. Transmission power lines pay property taxes to the county also.
GH: Essentially, I’m looking for a greatest-hits answer to, “Other than lining the pockets of landowners, will the local economy see any direct economic benefit from the wind farms?”
BROPHY: “Lining the pockets of landowners” an interesting statement on your part.
End of interview.
You can get more info, including a comprehensive report on The Economic Benefits of Colorado’s Eastern Plains Renewable Energy Industry at www.thewesterway.org. In a nutshell, Yuma County is going to rake in a good chunk of dough via the Great Renewable Land Rush. It’ll be up to the county commissioners and the voters to decide where that money goes. Given our good country manners and finely-honed love of community, I’ve no doubt that this process will go off without a hitch.
In a final attempt at something close to journalism, I asked Xcel if the Power Pathways transmission line would introduce permanent jobs to the area, what kinds of jobs, at what salaries, and requiring how much training. They said they’d get back to me. They haven’t. I would have pestered them, except, see the opening paragraph of this piece.
Next up: Horizons and birds.
Hill is a Yuma County native, graduate of Liberty High School, and published author of the “East of Denver” trilogy. He has returned to the family farm in southern Yuma County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.