Members of TWW’s Rural Energy Network recently toured Xcel Energy’s Rush Creek I Wind Farm in Elbert County, Colorado. The 600 MW wind project will include two wind farms and 83 miles of transmission lines to connect the generated energy with users on the Front Range. This eastern plains project will be built out across Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson, and Lincoln counties – home to some of Colorado’s best wind resources. The project is using wind turbines built by Vestas at its three Colorado manufacturing sites in Pueblo, Windsor and Brighton.
The Rush Creek project is estimated to inject $1 billion into the state’s economy and will have a significant impact on rural economies. TWW’s Rural Energy Network has seen how important projects like Rush Creek are to their local communities. These projects not only generate construction jobs on the front end but grow the tax base which in-turn supports needed local government services. Eastern Colorado has also seen an increase in high paying jobs for wind technicians, which has driven the creation of certificate programs at local community colleges.
Progressive 15, a Northeastern Colorado Chamber, recently quantified the economic impact that renewable energy projects have on Colorado’s Eastern Plains counties. The report found:
- Total direct and indirect economic benefit of construction and investment activity in renewable energy facilities in eastern Colorado from 2000 to 2016 was an estimated $2.7 billion in total output
- Projects produced 5,919 worker-years (2,595 direct employees + 3,324 indirect employees) earning a total of about $302.6 million ($154.2 million direct earnings + $148.4 indirect earnings) during the construction period.
- Total direct and indirect economic benefits of operating eastern Colorado’s renewable energy facilities is an estimated $138.7 million in total annual output.