History of the Wind Ranch
Environmentally Friendly Development of the Wind Ranch®
At Cielo Wind Power, we’re focused on preserving and protecting the farm and ranch land we use to develop commercial scale wind power plants. We are responsible for maintaining the existing pristine ranches and are committed to restoring the landscape to its original condition after construction is complete. Before the development of our first project, Cielo created and implemented the Wind Ranch® Principles to protect and preserve the integrity of the land. We require all contractors to follow these rules throughout the construction process and the life of a wind lease. For example, we expect all equipment to be washed before entering the project site to keep noxious weeds–such as African root and bitter weed–from being introduced. Because they are not required by any regulating industry, these conditions set the industry standard for environmental awareness in projects. In addition to the Wind Ranch® rules, Cielo replaces and restores manipulated and used fences and cattle guards during construction of a project. We also create better roads and bury power lines underground to reduce the project’s environmental footprint and attract landowners and their neighbors. Cielo is continually working to improve the aesthetics and efficiency of each project by collaborating with the FAA to minimize the number of lights installed by project and lower the visual impact of the turbines. Over time, these upgrades prove to be a win-win situation for the developer and the landowner.
Wind Ranch® Principles
- Minimal land impact
- Minimal disturbance to property
- Restoration of native plants
- Preservation of top soil
- Cleanup and restoration of land to original conditions
- Underground collection lines between turbines
- Minimal Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lighting on each project
Cielo Environmental Programs
Cielo Wind is committed to minimal disturbance during the construction period. We understand that heavy, earth-moving equipment in the middle of the “old home place” will make any landowner nervous. For example, while working on the King Mountain Wind Ranch®, one of the largest wind projects in the world, we cleared 150 square feet of turbine pads but did not clear between the pads, which were bordered by 25-foot road easements. All subcontractors were informed from the outset to only work within the easement area. In fact, employees were not allowed to park or tread outside the easements.
In order to enforce our minimal disturbance policy, we assign a landowner liaison to each new development. The liaison makes weekly thorough site inspections and reports to the subcontractor bosses at weekly safety meetings. Experience shows there are fewer problems when a contractor knows our expectations from the beginning. The landowner liaison is also available to landowners daily to receive any suggestions or complaints, and report problems to the general contractor immediately. By expressing the landowner’s concerns, there is significantly less opportunity for personal conflict.
Cielo Wind Power also self-imposes other practical development restrictions during construction. We minimize the chance of introducing or spreading noxious weeds by using weed-wash facilities at or near the wind ranch entrance. We limit dust production on forage vegetation by regularly watering caliche roads. In addition, we promptly remove litter and refuse from the area and do not use blasting equipment near owner dwellings, wells or natural springs.
Even with our exceptional standards of care, some disturbance is unavoidable. Cielo is committed to revegetating disturbed areas with adapted native vegetation and return topsoil layers with the “double digging” technique. We believe native plant restoration is important for erosion control, and seed pockets of climax perennials can improve range condition and the aesthetics of the finished wind ranch. To enhance the chances of success of any revegetation effort, we recommend landowners consult with the local agricultural extension experts or NRCS representatives to determine a seed mix of pioneer and climax grass species, native legumes and other hardy perennials.
Considering the ground lease Cielo signs with landowners can extend for several years into the future, we are dedicated to being good neighbors during the operations and maintenance period. Once construction is complete, wind ranch sites return to peaceful places. Livestock graze undisturbed, wildlife quickly becomes accustomed to the giant wind turbines and maintenance personnel continues to ensure good landowner relations. At Cielo, we know we are tenants–not landlords.
Cielo maintains good relations in a variety of ways. For instance, we never intentionally remove any plants, animals or archeological artifacts. We prohibit firearms, alcohol and illegal drugs on the property. Access roads are maintained in good quality, and security measures are adopted to control random access to the site. We promptly repair any above ground facilities that show rust or leaking fluids. In addition, maintenance personnel are trained in grass fire prevention and control, and we design mandatory turbine lighting to minimize negative visual impacts at night. Cielo believes that becoming agricultural