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Winds Blow Change Into Colorado As Farmers Help Boost Green Energy

By Michael Abeyta

ELBERT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)- Winds are blowing change into Colorado as farmers lease their land to help with alternative energy.

When it comes to local farming, you can't get much more Coloradan than Kochis Farms. Jan Kochis owns the farm and she says they have been around a while.

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"Kochis Farms has been in the family for more than 100 years. My husband's grandparents homesteaded here," said Jan.

Along with all of the cattle, wheat and sorghum they produce, there's one more thing they never have a shortage of, windy days.

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"We've always had plenty of wind, here," said Jan.

Now Jan Kochis and many other farmers on the plains are putting that wind to work for them. They are leasing their land to Xcel Energy for the Rush Creek Wind Project, a cluster of three hundred wind turbines spread across eastern Colorado.

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People like Jan who own land get lease payments from Xcel in exchange for access to their land where Xcel built and will operate their turbines.

For many of those landowners, it has been a financial shot in the arm.

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"This is a cash crop because whether it hails or rains or whatever, we'll have supplemental income," said Jan.

It has been lucrative for the entire region. The project has created hundreds of jobs so hotels restaurants and stores are full of new workers. In addition, the local counties are bringing in more tax dollars.

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Linda Olsen with the Limon Chamber of Commerce explains, "Basically every turbine brings in four thousand dollars in property tax."

Jan and her husband are farmers and now with these turbines on their land, they can add Colorado jobs to the list of things they grow out here.

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"It's like value added agriculture so it's just adding to our farm."

Xcel Energy hopes these windmills will be generating energy by August.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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