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Wind farm zoning rules put on hold

The Campbell County Commission has decided to take three more weeks to discuss wind farm zoning regulations before voting on emergency wind rules that it thinks will ensure safe and responsible wind energy development in Campbell County. The commissioners want to pass the wind farm regulations soon so they will be in place before construction starts in August on the first wind farm in Campbell County.

The Campbell County Commission has decided to take three more weeks to discuss wind farm zoning regulations before voting on emergency wind rules that it thinks will ensure safe and responsible wind energy development in Campbell County.

The commissioners want to pass the wind farm regulations soon so they will be in place before construction starts in August on the first wind farm in Campbell County. Emergency rules forgo the customary public comment period and allow regulations to take effect immediately.

The delay was requested by Third Planet Windpower, the company developing the wind farm in southern Campbell County. Third Planet Windpower has been working for several years to develop a 100 turbine, 150-megawatt wind farm along Highway 50 south of Wright.

"Based on (Third Planet Windpower's) experience with similar wind energy development ordinances, we requested that the county commissioners briefly postpone the adoption of the ordinance until we are able to coordinate further with the county on language that addresses the needs of both the county and wind energy developers," said Charlie Karustis, Third Planet Windpower spokesman, in an e-mail response to questions about... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Campbell County Commission has decided to take three more weeks to discuss wind farm zoning regulations before voting on emergency wind rules that it thinks will ensure safe and responsible wind energy development in Campbell County.

The commissioners want to pass the wind farm regulations soon so they will be in place before construction starts in August on the first wind farm in Campbell County. Emergency rules forgo the customary public comment period and allow regulations to take effect immediately.

The delay was requested by Third Planet Windpower, the company developing the wind farm in southern Campbell County. Third Planet Windpower has been working for several years to develop a 100 turbine, 150-megawatt wind farm along Highway 50 south of Wright.

"Based on (Third Planet Windpower's) experience with similar wind energy development ordinances, we requested that the county commissioners briefly postpone the adoption of the ordinance until we are able to coordinate further with the county on language that addresses the needs of both the county and wind energy developers," said Charlie Karustis, Third Planet Windpower spokesman, in an e-mail response to questions about the proposed regulations.

County Public Works Director Kevin King said he and his staff discussed the proposed rules at length with the company's project developer Thursday and Friday and, based on those discussions, would support a few more weeks to resolve issues with the company.

At the heart of matter is the bonding requirement the county wants from companies building wind farms - the financial assurance for decommissioning and reclamation if the company abandons the wind farm. Instead of requiring the bond after 15 years of operation, the County Commission wants it up front like in oil, gas and coal mine leases.

Third Planet Windpower says its wind farm will be in place for a minimum of 25 years and postponing the bond for 15 years is similar to requirements in other areas of Wyoming.

The company has told commissioners it will not construct a wind farm without a long-term contract with a utility company, which it has. It believes that is enough to ensure the county the wind farm will be a success.

"The requirement to post a bond during construction or immediately after commercial operations has begun will require an additional, significant project expenditure before revenues from wind energy generation are realized," Karustis said.

"Adding this payment on top of project construction expenditures will require, initially, a higher power price from the utility, making our Campbell County project less competitive when compared with those wind energy facilities that do not have this early bonding requirement," he said.

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Postponing a bond until revenue is coming in from the wind farm would make it easier on Third Planet Windpower's finances, but would leave the county at risk during the time when the company is most likely to default, commissioners said.

"I always use the analogy of the oil and gas business. If I go out and drill a well, I certainly don't have any revenue coming in on that well and yet I have to post a bond," said Commissioner Dan Coolidge, who owns an oil and gas exploration company.

The County Commission did give Third Planet Windpower credit for working with the county and going through the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council. The company could have developed the wind farm in several phases, which would have kept it under the threshold that requires the Industrial Siting Council to get involved, King said.

"That is what most of them have done already in the state. They have broke them up (wind farm projects) so they wouldn't go to the Industrial Siting Council," Commission Chairman Roy Edwards said.

Commissioner Amir Sancher made a point to say the County Commission is not anti-alternative energy, but at the same time, it needs to make sure it is protecting the county and individual landowners.

The County Commission will vote on the emergency wind rules at its next meeting July 7. If passed, the rules will go into effect immediately for 120 days, during which the county can pass the permanent rule.



Source: http://www.gillettenewsreco...

JUN 16 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/26771-wind-farm-zoning-rules-put-on-hold
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