Last Tuesday at their November 22, 2022 meeting the Kiowa County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) gave the green light to Xcel Energy Company approving their 1041 permit to build 86 miles through Kiowa County of a 345-kilovolt double-circuit transmission line through Segments 3 & 4 and the May Valley Substation of the Colorado Pathways Project.
The approval signifies the beginning of a future in Kiowa County that will significantly include the renewable energy industry.
County Administrator Tina Adamson verified that a good number of solar, wind and battery storage companies are seeking to add projects onto the transmission lines that will be built through Kiowa County by Xcel’s $1.7-$2.0 billion project that will run through Colorado, particularly through the lesser served areas of eastern Colorado.
In a roll call vote all three commissioners including Howard “Butch” Robertson, Michael Lening and Donald Oswald voted in the affirmative to approve the Xcel Energy permit. The commissioners agreed that their hope is the project will boost the economy, first by bringing in hundreds of workers who will build the transmission lines and ensuing wind, solar and energy storage sites, and then by providing upwards of 30-40 permanent jobs within the county that will be associated with the renewable energy production.
In addition, the commissioners are looking for a large increase into the county coffers through this project through impact fees and annual taxes.
After the vote Adamson read the entire Resolution 2022-6 that gave Xcel Energy the approval they needed to begin work.
The approval process has been more than a year in the making as Xcel Energy first presented the Colorado Pathways Project concepts to the community in meetings in Kiowa County beginning on November 17, 2021. Over the past year the project did come with some controversy.
Xcel Energy moved their initial Pathway of the project presented at that November 2021 meeting significantly to the south and east along the southern and eastern edges of Kiowa County after an activist group that supports the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site complained the initial line was too close to the national park and would disrupt the historic viewshed. That move, despite a hearing where landowners voiced their grievances calling the move an unfair and unfunded easement, cost some Kiowa County landowners a chance at significant revenue from the renewable energy projects that are now appearing to become a reality along with the new transmission line when it is built and goes online.
The permit given to Xcel Energy includes the more southerly line that does not affect any views at the Sand Creek site despite the fact that just last month the park added some 3,500 acres into conservation included within the park area.
The approved Xcel Energy transmission line will run from Cheyenne County in a north-south direction along the county/state line east of Highway 385 then as far south as possible within Kiowa County to within three-to-six miles of the southerly Kiowa/Prowers line. It will meet up with the May Valley Substation at the end of that line that will be built by Xcel Energy as part of the permit approval. At that point the line then turns to the west and runs east to west along Kiowa County’s southern border clear into Crowley County. The current maps at the Xcel Energy Colorado Pathways Project website denote the approved route in green.
The Colorado Pathways Project is a $1.7 to $2 billion investment designed to improve the state’s electric grid and will enable future renewable energy development around the state. The company says that the project will increase electric reliability, boost the regional economy and create jobs during construction.
It also helps Xcel Energy to meet Colorado’s 2030 carbon emissions requirements set by Governor Polis.
Colorado’s Power Pathway will span more than a dozen counties, primarily in eastern Colorado, and include up to 650 miles of new 345-kilovolt double-circuit transmission line; four new and expanded substations, with one proposed to be built in extreme southeastern Kiowa County. The first segments north of Kiowa County are proposed to be in service by 2025 while the lines out in southeastern Colorado won’t be ready until 2026 or 2027.
Work may begin by Xcel Energy Company as early late 2024, but a required time period for work to begin will be in 2025.
In the meantime, there is a lot of work to be done, and that means economic opportunity, for the many counties, including Kiowa County, that the project runs through. In addition to the permitting process and plans, Xcel is also working with counties to obtain construction-specific permits, such as road-use agreements and permits for construction laydown yards and project staging areas.
Xcel Energy Company is also already in negotiations with various solar, wind, and energy storage companies who plan to submit RFPs to Xcel.
The Xcel Energy Company Colorado Pathways Project approval is the second 1041 Permit given by Kiowa County in the past few months. At their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, October 13 the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) for Kiowa County approved the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s proposal to build 24 miles of transmission lines through the eastern end of Kiowa County running from north to south along Highway 385. That line will run for 110 total miles beginning at Tri-State’s current transmission substation in Burlington, down through Cheyenne and Kiowa County basically along the highway between Roads 71 and 73 and ending in the Lamar area in Prowers County at that existing substation.