benefits of wind power home
250 MW Cedar Point wind project in Colorado brought home the benefits
of alternative energy projects, with some $500 million injected into
the state's economy. All of the 139 1.8 MW Vestasturbines used on the
project were manufactured in Colorado.
The recently completed Cedar Point wind project in Colorado is one of
the best examples of the economic benefits that alternative energy
projects can bring to both a community and to a state.
139 V90-1.8 MW Vestas turbines used on the Cedar Point project were
manufactured in Colorado, at Vestas plants in Windsor, Brighton, and
Pueblo. Vestas has opened these manufacturing facilities in Colorado to
provide wind turbines for North American customers.
250 megawatt project, developed and built by Renewable Energy Systems
Americas Inc. (RES Americas), and now owned by energy company Enbridge
Inc., generates enough clean electricity to meet the needs of
approximately 80,000 homes. Power generated by the project is being
purchased under a long term contract with the Public Service Company of
Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy.
benefits include the injection of some $500 million into the
Colorado economy, creating more than 365 construction jobs in the town
of Limon, Colorado, where the project is located, and close to 25
full-time jobs now that Cedar Point is operational.
added bonus, however, is that the 139 V90-1.8 MW Vestas turbines
used on the project were manufactured in Colorado, at Vestas plants in
Windsor, Brighton, and Pueblo.
has opened these four manufacturing facilities in Colorado to
provide wind turbines for North American customers: a blades factory in
Windsor, a nacelle-assembly factory in Brighton, a second blade
factory, also in Brighton, and a tower manufacturing
facility—the world's largest—in Pueblo.
Americas is also based in Colorado and is a renewable energy
success story in itself. RES Americas is a fully-integrated renewable
energy company that develops, constructs, owns, and operates projects
across North America. With Cedar Point, the company has constructed, or
has under construction, more than 5,500 MW, which represents
approximately 10 percent of the operating installed wind capacity in
the U.S. RES Americas has a further 9,000 MW in development.
Cedar Point Wind Power Purchase Agreement is the first to be
completed from the 2007 Colorado Resource Plan by Public Service
Company of Colorado. "The project will expand the utilization of
Colorado's desirable wind resource into another region of the state to
deliver this clean wind energy to our customers," said Tom Imbler, vice
president of commercial operations for Xcel Energy, which owns Public
Service Company of Colorado.
only will this project help us meet our Renewable Energy Standard
for Colorado, it will be our first wind energy purchase from a facility
constructed in Colorado with wind turbines manufactured in Colorado."
Americas has been working on the Cedar Point project for some time,
explains ShaliniRamanathan, RES Americas vice-president of development,
South Central. "We have been working on Cedar Point for 10 years," she
first caught our attention with Cedar Point is that it's a very
windy site. It stands out on a topo map, with good wind qualities."
Also important is the availability of transmission capacity. That
feature is becoming increasingly important to wind project
developers—sites with easy access to transmission facilities
are becoming increasingly hard to find. Most of these sites, "low
hanging fruit" when it comes to the ease of a transmission hook up,
have already been developed.
the wind power industry is discovering, having tremendous wind
resources is one thing; but if there is no economical way to move wind
power to major load centers, the business case for a project can
quickly become shaky.
"One of the things that made Cedar Point attractive to us was that we
could build a line to the Missile Site substation, which connected to a
230 kV Public Service Company transmission line," explains Ramanathan.
"The substation was already there, and we knew it was going to be
upgraded." Essentially, the Cedar Point site stood out for having both
a combination of wind speed and the availability of transmission.
Americas used county roads in a limited way with the Cedar Point wind
project. The company built 32 miles of new roads as part of the
Added to that, says Ramanathan, is that Colorado itself, which is
lightly populated in many areas and has lots of open land, lends itself
to wind project development. "You also have utilities in Colorado that
are very interested in procuring wind power. Colorado's commitment to
renewable energy makes it a great place to develop projects."
The 20,000 acre site is made up primarily of privately owned farm land,
with some ranch land. The site, which runs between Lincoln and Elbert
counties in northeastern Colorado, has a ridge line. "The ridge
is subtle, though," says Ramanathan. "It's not like what you would see
on a wind project in the Pacific Northwest, for example."
Not to overstate the situation, but RES Americas ran into far more
YIMBY (Yes, In My Backyard) forces locally regarding Cedar Point Wind
than it did NIMBY folks.
"Cedar Point has always enjoyed really strong support from the local
community. The local Economic Development Office was engaged from the
start of the project right through to the ribbon cutting, and the
county was very supportive on the permitting."
As with all of its projects, RES Americas carried out environmental
studies on the Cedar Point site. These included standard avian and bat
studies, site characterization studies, and phase one environmental
site assessment for hazardous materials. "There were several years of
studies, and we coordinated very closely with the Colorado Division of
Wildlife, and met with U.S. Fish and Wildlife. One of the good things
about developing a project over a number of years is that you
understand the site very, very well," says Ramanathan.
As a result, they knew very well where the best locations were for
turbines on the site.
"We worked on turbine location layouts consistently throughout the
development cycle, and we evaluated lots of different turbines before
going with the Vestas equipment. We probably did half-a-dozen different
layouts with the different turbines we were evaluating."
The company is satisfied with its choice of the Vestas turbines, said
Ramanathan. "They are great turbines—they gave us the kind of
energy yield we needed to deliver a competitive price to Public Service
Company of Colorado. And we're really pleased to work with Vestas
because the turbines were manufactured in Colorado, and we're a
Colorado-based company. It was a great thing to do for the state
because it maximized local content."
Ramanathan said that with a 250 MW project, it's possible to achieve
some good economies of scale, both on the development side and
construction side. "I think smaller wind projects can take just as much
effort as large projects, but it's really satisfying to see something
that big happen from the effort we all put in as a company."
the wind turbines manufactured in Colorado, with a short shipping
distance, was a
distinct advantage. Local manufacturing of the turbines
generally meant they were better able
to control deliveries and get
turbines on site.
At a certain point with any wind project, the development folks at RES
Americas hand over the project to the construction folks in the
company. But they still work together, she noted.
"At RES Americas, we really are a fully integrated operation," she
explained. "Our construction people were involved on the site and
visited a number of times during development, and helped with the micro
siting, and helped with the turbine layout and the bid, many years
prior to Cedar Point starting construction.
"And then once it did move into construction, the development people at
RES Americas stayed involved as questions came up about certain
setbacks or it involved talking to landowners. While there is a
transition from development to construction, we are fortunate to have
construction and development both involved at RES Americas, to varying
degrees, through the whole process."
This is where the benefits of being an integrated company become most
"We believe that the integrated approach of having construction
involved at the beginning of the development cycle and developers
involved when the project gets under construction, leads to a better
"We're working on wind project sites that can be complicated. We're now
working on one site that has oil and gas infrastructure, and it's
really useful from the development side to have the construction people
visit and guide us on how best to develop a layout that works. I think
it's a key strength for RES Americas that construction plans for our
sites are much better developed than if we were simply relying on third
party bids for construction."
Such multi-use sites are going to become more common in the wind power
industry. "But I think the multiple use of land is one of the great
strengths of wind power," she added. "After an intense construction
period, wind power is compatible with other uses. We have had many
projects where once construction ends, farming, ranching, hunting, all
that carries on." The industry as a whole needs to realize that it is
going to be dealing a lot more with multiple use locations.
Although the weather in this part of eastern Colorado can be
notoriously bad, it was not a factor on construction of Cedar Point.
This area of the state can experience the full range of western U.S.
weather, from snowstorms to tornadoes.
"The weather was really good to us on Cedar Point," says Jason
Zingerman, vice-president, construction projects, northwest, for RES
Americas. "The weather allowed us to get ahead of schedule with
construction and stay ahead of schedule through the project."
Zingerman said that in planning the
construction of a wind farm, the weather is one of the key factors in
determining the schedule. "We were fortunate, but we also planned the
schedule right so that when the rain came, we already had our roads
Americas was able to
finish the Cedar Point project ahead of schedule, thanks to some good
weather. The company credits the overall success of the project to the
teamwork between RES Americas, their client, and the subcontractors.
The only roads in place to work with were the county roads, he says.
"We basically started from scratch. We used county roads in a very
limited way. We used very short stretches to get from one section of
the wind farm to another, but we built 32 miles of new roads."
As with all wind construction projects, there is a need for large
quantities of construction materials.
"One of the biggest challenges for the project was the aggregate we
used for the roads. We had about a 100 mile haul, to bring it in from
Morrison, Colorado." About 12,000 truckloads, or a staggering 270,000
tons, of aggregate were required.
With a $500 million, 250 MW project, they were able to achieve some
economies of scale, he said. "The size contributes to the project
becoming more of an assembly line. You definitely gain efficiencies
with this kind of scale. It allows you to do things, like a 42-mile
transmission line to tie it to the grid, that you wouldn't want to do
with a smaller project."
He noted they had daily plan-of-the-day meetings with contractors and
the client to discuss issues, and they tried to keep things a bit
flexible to deal with the different developments on such a large
"But it's really all done in a planned fashion on a big wind farm such
as Cedar Point. You're moving from one turbine to the next. You do the
foundations, the rebar, pour the concrete, and the crew ahead is doing
the rebar for the next foundation." They had all the foundations done
before the turbines were delivered, allowing them to better manage
Having the turbines manufactured in Colorado, with a short shipping
distance, was a distinct advantage. "We took some turbines prior to
starting erection, so we'd have a bit of backlog on site," said
Zingerman. "But because the turbines were manufactured in Colorado, we
were better able to control deliveries and get turbines on site. We got
the turbines quite quickly and got them on site ahead of needing them.
We did not have any situations where we were waiting on a turbine to do
The good weather they had during construction was one of the main
reasons why RES Americas was able to finish the project ahead of
schedule. But there were other reasons, says Zingerman.
"I think the key to the success of the whole project was the teamwork
and the atmosphere between us, our client, and our subcontractors. If
you're ahead of schedule on a project, it takes a team effort.
Otherwise, if you get ahead on one aspect, and if another contractor
decides not to stick with the ahead of schedule effort, you can just
slip back to where you were before."
RES Americas selected local and Colorado companies for a good part of
the construction work.
Zingerman also credited the development folks for being a key part of
completing the project ahead of schedule.
"We developed this project, and you have to give a lot of credit to our
development people for giving us construction guys a fully baked
project, that was ready to build. One of the keys to success on any
wind project is good development and having it ready to build so you
don't run into any snags along the way."
As with his colleague, ShaliniRamanathan, Zingerman believes there are
solid benefits to a project being done by an integrated company, such
as RES Americas.
"Our developers and construction people work hand-in-hand on the issues
that will affect us down the road. After the turnover of the project to
construction, I have access to developers, permitters, environmental
specialists who can follow up on any development issues along the way.
"We feel that is exactly the value add of RES Americas," he said. "With
everything from the wind resource on the site to the land leasing to
the permitting agency involvement, equipment procurement, on into
construction, and, in the case of Cedar Point, the operations of the
wind farm, we're all right here, in one building."
A final point that Zingerman added is that the project was carried out
with high safety standards. "We are really proud of our safety record
on Cedar Point—it was a safety success."