For more than a century, Jan and Virgil Kochis’ family has farmed wheat, corn and other cash crops on 10,000 acres of pasture and farmland near Matheson in Elbert County.

It’s the only lifestyle they know, they said. So when crop prices started to plummet, the Kochises turned to a resource that is breathing new economic life into eastern Colorado: wind turbines.

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Farmers Virgil and Jan Kochis walk in front of one of the 30 wind turbines on their family farm Thursday, June 28, 2018, east of Matheson, Colo. Xcel Energy’s Rush Creek Project, including the turbines on the Kochis Farm, will begin producing enough electricity to supply 325,00 homes begining in October. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

CHRISTIAN MURDOCK THE GAZETTE

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“It doesn’t matter if there is hail, rain, lightning,” Jan said. “As long as the wind blows, we’re producing energy that we’re able to profit from. It is our new cash crop.”

Leading the charge toward a wind-driven energy grid in Colorado is Xcel Energy, which owns the 30 wind turbines on the Kochises’ farm and an additional 270 in Elbert, Cheyenne, Lincoln and Kit Carson counties as part of the Rush Creek Wind Project.

Once completed in October, the project will be the largest wind-generating facility in the state, distributing 600 megawatts of energy to an estimated 325,000 homes. It’s projected to pump $1 billion into the Colorado economy and will help Xcel Energy reach 55 percent renewable energy by 2026.

“It’s a bright day for conservation and energy production in Colorado,” said Greg Brophy, the Colorado director of The Western Way, a self-described right-leaning conservation group.

Becoming a wind farmer+8 

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One of the 30 wind turbines on Kochis Farm stands in the

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