Rural Landowners and Wind Farm Development Part II

May 2, 2018

Audio with Jan Kochis, a Colorado crop and livestock farmer and chair of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. MP3 2.5 MB. Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:45.

When it comes to wind farms, developers need much interaction with rural landowners. Those landowners often have little knowledge of the process along with many questions like, "What is it like to live around a wind farm?" The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is helping to answer those questions.

Jan Kochis, a Colorado crop and livestock farmer, is chair of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Her farm includes turbines and a transmission line in Elbert County, Colorado, where Xcel Energy-Colorado is building and will own and operate a 600-megawatt wind facility. The wind farm will power electricity to about 325,000 homes once fully operational. Kochis can see the turbines from her home, and she explains what it’s like to live around wind farms.

"I can look out my kitchen window and I can see five of them. I like them. I think they are majestic. But of course they will have a blinking light on the top because they are 250 feet tall. But I don’t anticipate, since they’re at least a mile away from our house, that we’re going to hear them unless we’re over there standing underneath them. And that’s what I tell people, I say, because they are objecting, "Don’t you think they are going to make you sick or go crazy?" and I said, "Well, I’m not really planning on it."

Wind farms provide often times a much-needed boost to rural economies. Kochis says the economic benefit comes in three parts.

"Right now, there’s like 320 people working on this job, and they’re staying in the surrounding towns, they’re eating at restaurants, buying food at the grocery store, it’s a real boost to the local economy. And Elbert County itself collected $4.3 million in building permits for the wind farm and $500,000 for transmission, so then that’s an economic benefit to the county. The county will also benefit from additional payments from property taxes."

For folks living around proposed or developing wind farms, some may have concerns about the facilities. Kochis says that as the process moves forward, be involved in the progress and get to know the developers.

"Get acquainted with the workers and be courteous to them. They’re doing their job and we have had no difficulty at all. I think that it is something that is good for the state, the county, because we’re developing renewable energy to complement the other forms of energy. But, it really is a rural economic development opportunity which benefits farmers and ranchers kind of as a supplement to their income."

Kochis adds that for the project in her community, the turbines were manufactured in Colorado, another aspect of the project to be proud about.