Future of dormant Ponnequin wind farm being determined

The Ponnequin Wind Farm stands inactive off U.S. Highway 85 Friday afternoon near the Wyoming/Colorado state line south of Cheyenne. Xcel Energy is trying to determine what to do with the wind farm, as it has been inactive for nearly a year.

CHEYENNE – The blades are no longer turning at the Ponnequin wind farm south of Cheyenne.

Operations at the wind farm ended at the end of December 2015, and the site is currently dormant.

Though they’re visible from many parts of the city, the 44 turbines at Ponnequin are just across the state line in Colorado.

Xcel Energy owns almost the entire wind farm and is currently deciding the future of the site, said Mark Stutz, a media representative with the utility.

“We currently are developing a decommissioning plan, and it is Xcel Energy’s intent to return the site to its original state, but other potential options may be explored in the process,” he said.

Ponnequin opened in 1998 and was projected to have a 15-year lifespan.

It is made up of both 650-kilowatt and 750-kilowatt turbines, and it produced 30 megawatts of electricity, Stutz said.

Stutz said the decision to end operations at the wind farm was due in large part to economics, with replacement parts difficult to find, making maintenance more difficult.

Further, Xcel Energy is moving forward with other, newer wind projects.

Stutz said more detailed plans for Ponnequin will be known next year.

The situation at Ponnequin is part of an evolving issue around the end of life for wind farms everywhere as the technology becomes more widespread.

Modern wind turbines are expected to last several decades or more, and many places now require wind farms to provide decommissioning plans.

In Wyoming, those decommissioning plans must include removal of the “turbines, towers, substations, buildings, cabling, electrical components, foundations to a depth of forty-eight (48) inches, and any other associated or ancillary equipment or structures within the facility boundary above and below ground,” according to rules administered by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

Those rules also stipulate that decommissioning must begin one year after the end of the useful life of the wind farm or individual turbine or when no electricity is generated from a wind farm or individual turbine for a one-year period.

Financial assurance for reclamation of the site must be in place, and cost estimates to reclaim the facility must be provided to the state.

In the event an entity does not decommission and reclaim a site within a set timeframe, the state can take over the process and use the entity’s financial assurance to pay for the work.

The state Industrial Siting Council can extend timelines or provide variances to rules.

The other two commercial wind farms in Laramie County – the adjacent Happy Jack and Silver Sage facilities off Wyoming Highway 210 – are expected to remain in operation for several decades.

Tammie McGee, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, which owns both wind farms, said how long a farm will be in operation is dependent on many factors, but modern facilities will typically be active for at least 30 years.

Duke does not yet have any wind energy facilities that are ready for decommissioning, she said, noting Happy Jack (opened in 2008) was one of the first the company built.

McGee said options for wind farm sites that have reached the end of their lives could include repair, installing newer technology or returning the site to its original state.


NOV 1 2016
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