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Monticello Enters The Brave New Wind Economy

Jon Kovash

During the past few months, 27 new wind towers have appeared above the town of Monticello, and it took many long years to make it happen.

Charley Gustavson is the construction manager for Sustainable Power, the builder of the Latigo Wind Farm, on a country road out of Monticello. He says these 27 towers were a small job for sPower. He’s packing up his construction trailer, and his specialized crew will soon move on to another state.

Credit Jon Kovash

  “They have to be trained in tower climbing. You have to have someone there who has the ability to rescue. Pretty intense training.”

Above all, wind power is keeping people busy during a time of big layoffs in the oil and gas fields.

“It’s not really a proven fact that it pays for itself in a short-term time, but overall, it does.”

The GE wind turbines produce 63 megawatts and have a service life of 20 years. After that, Gustafson says they can be recycled again, creating more jobs.

“So I’m saying at the end of the 20 years, I’m saying, possibly even before that, they might change the software in them, which produces either more or less electricity out of them.”

During construction of the wind farm, the Four Corners School was constructing its new science center nearby. Both were a long time coming, says Bill Boyle, editor of the San Juan Record.

“This was an attempt initiated (by) City of Monticello Economic Development Committee 14 years ago. Commissioner Adams and I were on that committee and I came up with the idea of the science center and he came up with the idea for the wind farm.”

Wind power projects have not come easy in Utah, which ranks 11th out of 13 Western states in alternative power. In Monticello it took years of squabbling among landowners, competing wind developers, state and federal agencies, and Rocky Mountain Power. County Commissioner Bruce Adams.

“There’s been a number of private property owners who have shown interest in having a wind farm put on their land. There’s been a number of companies that have explored with anemometers the wind resource that we have in this area.”

Credit Jon Kovash

  The Monticello wind farm also faced opposition from the local internet press. The Canyon Country Zephyr says you’ll be able to see the towers, with red lights on top, from as far away as I- 70. Other criticism came from Monty Wells, Jim Lyman’s co-defendant in civil disobedience at Recapture Canyon. Wells runs a web site called the Petroglyph.

“There are some guidelines. One is the distance from town because of the noise. Not only that there’s ice throw, there’s a whole variety of different things that they should have taken into consideration.”

Wells has charged that Commissioner Bruce Adams had too many potential conflicts in the wind farm approval.

“His ranch is called Latigo, he lives on Latigo Drive, and it’s Latigo Wind Farm.”

Editor Bill Boyle strongly disagrees.

“Commissioner Adams has no financial interest at any level in the Wasatch wind farm, except as a San Juan county resident. The property tax paid by this wind farm will benefit everyone in the county.”

As to whether Monticello’s wind power boom will continue, the future is uncertain. There are lawsuits to be resolved, and Rocky Mt. Power is trying to get out of its obligations to provide long-term contracts for wind and solar.

Originally from Wyoming, Jon Kovash has practiced journalism throughout the intermountain west. He was editor of the student paper at Denver’s Metropolitan College and an early editor at the Aspen Daily News. He served as KOTO/Telluride’s news director for fifteen years, during which time he developed and produced Thin Air, an award-winning regional radio news magazine that ran on 20 community stations in the Four Corners states. In Utah his reports have been featured on KUER/SLC and KZMU/Moab. Kovash is a senior correspondent for Mountain Gazette and plays alto sax in “Moab’s largest garage band."