Library from Wyoming
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.
Wind Wyoming’s Way announced Wednesday it would spend the next year-and-a-half gathering signatures and trying to build support to increase taxes on wind energy production. The group proposes raising the current tax from $1 per megawatt hour to $5 per megawatt hour. It also would eliminate the three-year tax exemption currently in place for new wind projects.
Gov. Mark Gordon released a draft executive order to bolster migration corridor protections. The draft, published on Dec. 23, attempted to thread the needle between the need to preserve precious wildlife and the need to support Wyoming’s lucrative energy sector. Of the eight ungulate species, or hoofed mammals, making up the one million or so migrating mammals across Wyoming, the executive order places special emphasis on two: mule deer and pronghorn. Since its release, the draft has been lauded by several groups as a winning example of science-based wildlife management policy. Still, others fear it could add one more set of hurdles for energy developers to leap through.
South of Laramie, there's a road that goes straight into the plains. Over the hill, it's just open country, boulders and eventually, a tan house with a large porch facing the Rockies.
ConnectGen, a renewable energy development company based out of Houston, Texas, has started the permitting stages of constructing a 504-megawatt wind farm stretching across public and private land on both sides of the highway. The project would encompass 26,000-acres close to Tie Siding.
The saga of the two planned wind farm projects will continue into the spring, according to Carbon County Planning and Zoning Director Sid Fox. He said as much on Tuesday morning at the first Carbon County Commissioners’ meeting of 2020, when the board rejected the conditional use permit applications for the Lucky Star and Two Rivers wind farms.
RAWLINS — The saga of the two planned wind farm projects will continue into the spring, according to Carbon County Planning and Zoning Director Sid Fox.
According to a letter submitted to the Sweetwater County Land Use Office regarding the solar project’s proposal April 27, 2018, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was concerned with how the facility’s perimeter fence would cause antelope and big game to funnel onto Wyo. Highway 372. The WGFD feared this would cause increased collisions between vehicles and wildlife.
Debate over the fate of Wyoming’s bustling migration corridors dominated a packed natural resource committee meeting Wednesday in Casper. State lawmakers and key stakeholders wrestled over how to maintain both a robust energy industry and healthy environment for the state’s iconic migratory game. Ultimately, committee members voted to sponsor a new bill that could overhaul how the state regulates migration corridors and expand the corridor designation process beyond the purview of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The future of a planned wind project between Albany and Carbon counties is now in question. The result of that could mean the loss of $5 million “impact assistance” funding that governments in Carbon and Albany counties were set to receive from the state.
One wind farm in Glenrock and two from the Saratoga area have partnered with the Casper Regional Landfill to dispose of their old wind turbine blades. More than 900 blades will be brought to the landfill beginning now until the end of next spring.
If you’re looking for examples of small government in Wyoming, towns like Medicine Bow, population 267, undoubtedly set the standard.
The project is located on 49,974 acres of city of Cheyenne, state of Wyoming and private lands in Laramie County. The 17-month construction period is expected to start this month and wrap up by the end of 2020.