Four Corners Wind Resource Center
The Four Corners Wind Resource Center serves stakeholders in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Contact your resource center to learn more about wind resources, projects, and information in your area.
Focus areas: Regional transmission, integration, and interconnection issues, including the implementation of the energy imbalance market to help expand the wind market in the West; researching opportunities to address drought issues.
The region supported by the Four Corners Wind Resource Center is known for vast expanses of land between population centers, hundreds of miles of transmission lines, and rich wind resources, and there is significant opportunity for continued market growth. The organization features information on regional transmission, integration, and interconnection issues in an area of the country that also experiences drastic climate challenges while balancing energy needs.
Success Story: New 60-Megawatt Colorado Wind Farm Helps Local Utility Reach State Goals
In 2004, Colorado enacted a renewable energy standard (RES), which has informed energy diversification by requiring Colorado utilities to increase their share of electricity from renewable sources. Each investor-owned utility must achieve 30% renewable generation by 2020, and for one utility, a single project recently played a crucial role to keep them on target to meet Colorado’s RES.
Black Hills Energy, a local utility serving the southern portion of the state, until recently generated only 12% of its power from renewable energy sources. To increase their use of renewables, Black Hills issued a request for proposals in November 2014 to acquire 60 megawatts (MW) of renewable generation, but the utility was initially denied approval by the Colorado Public Utility Commission (PUC). The PUC deemed that the proposals, including the potential acquisition of a 60-MW wind project in southern Colorado, were not cost-effective solutions and preferred that the utility purchase stand-alone renewable energy certificates to make up the deficit.
With substantial long-term rate payer savings in mind, Interwest Energy Alliance, a Four Corners Wind Resource Center partner, filed comments with the PUC that highlighted the long-term benefits of renewable energy production, the price stability from utility-owned renewable projects, the risks associated with RES compliance in the short term through purchase of stand-alone RECs, and the benefits that would be unrealized if federal tax incentives were not acquired through a near-term wind acquisition. As the U.S. Department of Energy’s Regional Resource Center for wind energy in the Southwest region of the nation, the Four Corners Wind Resource Center is comprised of diverse energy partners providing wind energy expertise to their region. The group was able to inform and demonstrate the long-term benefits of renewable energy production, the price stability from utility-owned renewable energy projects, and the risks associated with RES compliance in the short term through purchase of stand-alone renewable energy certificates. After considering the public comments and filings, the PUC announced it would allow Black Hills to refile the previous bids for the 60-MW wind project.
The PUC officially reversed their decision on November 2, 2015, and the Peak View Wind Project came online on November 7, 2016, resulting in the utility achieving an additional 7% renewable generation. In addition to keeping Blacks Hills on the path to RES compliance, the project provided economic benefits in Las Animas and Huerfano Counties. Peak View supported 120 construction jobs and provided a monetary boost in the community as workers filled hotel rooms and frequented local establishments while the project was built. Customers of Black Hills Energy are expected to save more than $37 million on their electricity bills during the first 20 years of operation, and the project will support four permanent operations and maintenance positions throughout its lifetime.
Home to approximately 6,500 people, Huerfano County has 24 of the project’s 35 turbines within its borders. County Administrator John Galusha expects the Peak View Wind Project to add $80,000 in annual tax revenue to Huerfano County’s general fund during the 20-year lifetime of the project. With an annual county budget of $4 million, the additional tax revenue is a big boost. By ensuring local voices of support were heard and facilitating the information the PUC needed, the Four Corners Wind Resource Center helped make this project possible to get Black Hills Energy, and the southern Front Range region, moving in the right renewable direction.
Success Story: Resource Center Supports Wind Energy Opportunities for Rural Utah
In 2017, counties in Utah will publish the first locally written resource management plans (RMPs), defining county priorities for the development and use of federal lands. With more than half of Utah’s land under the jurisdiction of federal land management agencies, federal agencies and state and county governments find these RMPs indispensable in better planning and integrating the goals and policies of local jurisdictions when establishing new rules.
As part of this effort, the Four Corners Wind Resource Center (4CWRC) worked with county officials in Utah for more than a year to ensure that local stakeholders have the information they need to address wind energy development within the scope of their RMPs. The 4CWRC provided background on wind energy and guidance language regarding wind resources, technology advancements, and development that all of Utah’s 29 counties, as well as seven multi-county associations and the Utah Association of Counties, could use to ensure that those unfamiliar with wind energy would have current information and appropriate language to meet Utah’s renewable energy target.
In addition to providing resources for counties statewide, the 4CWRC also engaged 16 Utah counties, including six that were designated as high-wind locations (Tooele, Juab, Millard, Beaver, Iron, and Box Elder counties). The main topics of discussion included:
- County-developable wind resources and access to transmission, or lack thereof
- Wind and solar development regulations, typically at the utility scale
- Other issues: wildlife impacts; challenges for developing projects across land jurisdictions; and potential economic development benefits, costs, and efficiencies of wind technology.
Wind energy development on federal lands is not new in Utah; the state is home to the first utility-scale wind energy project built on federal land. Known as Milford Wind, the two-phase project has a total capacity of 306 megawatts (MW) and is located in Beaver and Millard Counties, with approximately 30% of the project sited on federally managed land.
Phase I of the Milford project, completed in 2009, consisted of 97 turbines with a capacity of 204 MW. More than 250 development and construction jobs were supported by the project. The construction of Phase II supported an additional 200 jobs and was completed in 2011, adding 68 turbines and 102 MW of capacity to the project. Supporting more than 20 full-time operations and maintenance positions, the two phases of Milford Wind represent approximately $85.5 million in investments in Utah businesses, labor, and subcontractors.
As new technology enables the economic development of lower-wind-speed resources, with the help of RRCs, federal, state, and local governments can support the development of stable policy and provide certainty for appropriate wind development on public lands in Utah, potentially supporting more economic opportunities through wind energy in the state.