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Kiowa County Commissioners Approve Permits


By Betsy Barnett

March 17, 2024

On Thursday, March 14, 2024, in their regularly scheduled meeting, the Kiowa County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved two large 1041 renewable energy project permits to Towner Wind Energy III LLC, a subsidiary of Invenergy. The two wind projects, known as Towner East and Towner West Wind projects will entail the largest construction project to ever be undertaken in Kiowa County.

Invenergy’s communications manager Alaina Merrill stated upon the permits being signed, “This is an exciting step forward for the Towner East and Towner West Wind Projects and for Kiowa County. These projects will bring great benefits to the County and its residents. We are grateful to the County for their support and countless hours of hard work throughout this process. We look forward to continuing our relationship for many years to come.”

The permit approvals for two wind farms have taken over two years to get accomplished requiring much work, discussion, and legal considerations by the BOCC, county administration, and their legal representatives. The 1041 application hearing on February 13, 2024, for both applications was a long, drawn-out affair that featured approximately 130 people who were there, mostly in support, to learn more about Invenergy and their wind projects.

At that meeting, most attendees were in full support of the wind farms coming into the county, however, they also encouraged the commissioners to retain the 1% impact fee that Invenergy was trying to negotiate down as attendees felt the County’s sorely lacking infrastructure would require a financial shot in the arm in order to be able to respond to issues that the large amount of workers, equipment, traffic, and activity will bring during the construction phase.

According to Invenergy, the Towner East Wind project proposes 5000 MW wind power generation facility in Kiowa County. With approximately 154 wind turbines spread across approximately 60,000 acres of private land, Towner East will include a 20- to 25-mile generator lead (gen-tie) transmission line with interconnection to the Public Service Company of Colorado’s (PSCo) May Valley Substation that is currently under construction by Xcel Energy in southeast Kiowa County. Other project assets for Towner East will include a storage facility taking up 5.1 acres and up to 50 acres of lay down area. Concreate batch plants will be needed, as well, and will be constructed where and when needed.

Towner West is a proposed 500 MW wind power generation facility with approximately 168 wind turbines generating 4.5 MW each and spread across approximately 120,000 acres of private land. Towner West will also include an 8- to 18-mile generator lead (gen-tie) transmission line with interconnection to the May Valley Substation currently being constructed by Xcel Energy.

When construction begins approximately 250-300 workers will be assigned to each project. The timeline for construction looks to have been moved out some and probably won’t begin until sometime in 2025.

On Thursday, the three county commissioners signed the two permits, one for the Towner East Wind project and one for the Towner West Wind project. Within the language of the permits the 1% impact fee has been agreed upon with both the commissioners and Invenergy signing the agreement.

Each wind project that has been permitted comes with an estimated $1 billion price tag which means the 1% impact fee for the wind farms, Towner East and Towner West, will eventually provide Kiowa County $20 million total, $10 million each, in impact fees.

The County contends that the impact fees will absolutely be needed for land use, including dealing with the highly regulated landfills, road and bridge building and maintenance, health and medical impacts to the medical clinics and the Kiowa County Hospital District, and serious impacts to law enforcement and emergency management services such as ambulance and fire protection.

Earlier in the day, Kiowa County Sheriff Bryan Williams and Russ Watson, Ambulance and Fire Protection County Director met with the commissioners in order to discuss expected impact costs to their agencies when the construction on the wind farms begins.

Sheriff Williams told the commissioners that he had checked with his counterparts in other counties including Prowers, Cheyenne, Kit Carson, and Lincoln and they had given him some good information on the impacts their departments had experienced when the wind farm construction projects came into their counties. Williams shared such issues as thefts and fights, but the most issue they had was on the roads with irresponsible driving or road rage. Also, details were provided him about issues other counties had at specific “man camps”—travel trailer areas where the workers live while on the job.

The Sheriff said Kiowa County is unique because it is so geographically long requiring a great number of miles to get to the areas where the towers will be constructed. He feels he’ll need at least one, if not a second additional deputy, in order to provide adequate coverage across the county.

Watson mentioned that he deals with all volunteers and the volunteer base on the ambulance crew as well as the fire departments is quickly dwindling in the county. He feels people just don’t have the means or interest anymore to dedicate themselves to helping people without being compensated for their time. There are numerous shortages in the county’s emergency services and when 600 or more people—all working in a fairly dangerous career field—convene on Kiowa County his agencies may be overwhelmed.

The BOCC is hopeful the impact fees will help the numerous agencies deal with the onslaught that will occur in the county during the estimated two years of construction.

County Administrator Tina Adamson said in a phone interview after the meeting that the impact fees for the two projects will be paid in increments. First, upon issuing the permits, Invenergy will pay the County $150,000 for each project. She expects that to be paid within days.

Then 60% of the $20 million will be paid over a scheduled period of time before construction begins. Finally, 40% of the total amount of impact fees are due after construction has been completed but before the two wind farms are operational.

Adamson also expects it will take Invenergy some time to resolve issues presented by the Tribes associated with the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Park whereby they are protesting the placement of an unspecified number of towers that may be in the “viewshed” of the park. There is also some work to be done with U.S. Fish and Wildlife as they figure out how to deal with perceived presence of the endangered prairie chicken.

With these issues still needing resolved, the construction phases of the Towner East and Towner West Wind projects may not begin as scheduled and looks to be pushed out further into 2025.

For more information about both wind projects go to the County’s website where the 1041 applications and permits have been posted. The website URL is: https://kiowacounty.colorado.gov/.

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