Library from Wyoming
The Albany County Planning and Zoning Commission will not recommend sweeping changes to wind energy regulations in the near-term, voting instead last week to support minimal amendments proposed by the county’s planning department.
Albany County’s planning and zoning board moved forward with recommending changes to regulations on wind energy on Wednesday designed to bring the county in line with state statute, but they haven’t ruled out even more stringent measures.
A group of Albany County residents seeking a change to the county’s rules for wind energy projects plans to hold a peaceful protest rally at the county courthouse at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Like all counties in Wyoming, Albany County has a comprehensive plan which guides policymakers where growth and various land uses should take place, consistent with the vision and values defined with extensive input from the public and stakeholders. The overarching theme that emerged from this process is that county residents want to keep the county rural, conserving its traditions and character, supporting agriculture, wildlife, habitat, and scenic vistas.
LARAMIE — Albany County government could be moving toward stopping all wind energy development in the county if it adopts regulations being proposed by a Laramie law firm, a wind energy company representative said this week.
The Laramie City Council is slated to decide whether to back a wind energy development planned for a large swath of land in Albany County next month, but it heard an earful of opposition to the project during a work session Tuesday.
Edwards reminded the commission of the wind energy facility permitting authority the Wyoming Legislature gave counties in 2010. He said that is the most authority the Legislature has given the counties in terms of regulating anything. “Part of that reasoning is because it is such a local issue and affects local people much greater than everything else,” Edwards said. He added that the county cannot regulate things like mining and water quality, “but it does have the authority to fully permit and regulate wind energy facilities.”
Incredible photos have revealed the final resting place of massive wind turbine blades that cannot be recycled, and are instead heaped up in piles in landfills. The municipal landfill in Casper, Wyoming, is the repository of at least 870 discarded blades, and one of the few locations in the country that accepts the massive fiberglass objects.
This viable opportunity is being threatened. Albany County regulations currently allow for the ability to sell all these opportunities and decimate the attractive landscape surrounding Laramie, Vedauwoo, and our national forests and monuments (in reality most of Albany county), with massive wind turbines, interconnection switchyards, substations, maintenance buildings, and miles of access roads and transmission lines for a monetary reward. Short sighted thinking is not the avenue we as a community should accept when our future is at stake.
Current Albany County regulations are outdated and not stringent enough to accommodate the increase in height and volume of projected turbines, and obviously will not protect our residents, historic landmarks, or state parks. Other Wyoming counties have adjusted their regulations to evolve with the changes in the industry in order to protect their residents and natural resources. Citizens of Albany County deserve that same protection.
A planned wind development project around Tie Siding will have to wait for the Laramie City Council’s blessing, if that blessing ever comes.
RAWLINS — As scores of contract workers flock to Carbon County to help build several major energy projects, questions have emerged over whether the influx is a good idea amid the spread of COVID-19.
I read Lynn Woodard’s guest op-ed in last week’s Boomerang, in which he argues against scrutiny of the proposed wind project near Tie Siding. In fact his piece shows why a moratorium is essential.
The moratorium was proposed in order to allow the commission time to examine the county’s wind energy development regulations and make changes to modernize them. The existing regulations were adopted in March 2009. The demand to look at the county regulations stems from a new potential wind energy development project called Rail Tie Wind Project.
House Bill 217 is looking at wind preventing wind turbine blades from being deposited in landfills. An amendment passed on second reading in the House on February 25, 2020. The amendment changed the year that the bill will take effect from 2020 to 2024. "I didn't oppose it. I call it a friendly amendment,” Rep. Bunky Loucks (R - HD 59) said. “I surely would like to have it not out until 2024. I can just imagine the amount of blades that the landfill is going to take in but I just want to see the bill go through."
The purpose of the moratorium, as expressed by the residents during the Feb. 12 meeting, is to give the county a chance to evaluate and revise its wind energy regulations. The matter of wind regulations arose as residents found out about the Rail Tie Wind Project. Powered by a Houston-based renewable energy company named ConnectGen, the project will be located on private and state lands near U.S. Highway 287 outside of Tie Siding — if the project passes federal, state and county permitting processes.
Sponsored by the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senate File 125 would have required energy utilities to provide 95 percent of their electricity from a restricted list of energy sources by 2021 and 100 percent by 2022. The list included coal, oil and natural gas — the state’s primary economic engines — but notably omitted utility-scale wind and solar power. Under the bill, if a utility had chosen to invest in renewable energy sources, the state could have penalized the company with a fine for each megawatt of energy not produced from the sources deemed acceptable.
“The FAA applications were filed on October 17, 2019, a full three months prior to the January Public Scoping meetings. Yet, ConnectGen representative, Amanda McDonald, insisted at the meetings that the turbine locations were not determined. It’s disingenuous for ConnectGen to pretend there isn’t a known project layout.” When plotted using Google Earth, the group found turbines were situated as close as 1,689 feet to area houses, well under Albany County’s setback distance of 5.5 times turbine height.
Tens of thousands of aging blades are coming down from steel towers around the world and most have nowhere to go but landfills. In the U.S. alone, about 8,000 will be removed in each of the next four years. Europe, which has been dealing with the problem longer, has about 3,800 coming down annually through at least 2022, according to BloombergNEF. It’s going to get worse: Most were built more than a decade ago, when installations were less than a fifth of what they are now.
Locals questioned the reliability of renewable power, arguing it is propped up by subsidies and too untested to shoulder the demands of the electrical grid. Repeatedly, speakers portrayed a dark vision of a future where solar panels and wind turbines crowd Wyoming’s vistas and degrade its wildlife and where electricity prices rise even as rolling blackouts disrupt western cities.