Library from Wyoming
This has been known to fry wind turbines. With snow, ice and frigid weather, winter creates complications for renewable energy, as I wrote last week. But for Ralph Brokaw, a Wyoming rancher with both cows and wind turbines on his land, the worst hazard is not the ice that his blades can throw off in the winter. Rather, it is lightning strikes on the towers.
The county's development department has presented suggestions to the Natrona County Commission to possibly revise a last-minute amendment to an early November resolution requiring mountain residents to obtain conditional use permits -- more complicated than regular permits -- to erect domestic wind turbines. ...But the last minute change irked mountain residents, who persuaded the county's development department to hold a public meeting to determine the support for the conditional use permits.
Rocky Mountain Power is asking landowners for their input on the route of a major transmission line proposed to run across southern Wyoming from the Casper area to the Idaho border. Representatives of the Salt Lake City-based utility told the Carbon County Commission last week that it has identified a 2-mile-wide corridor for its proposed Gateway West transmission line, which would carry 500 kilovolts of electricity.
The Albany County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to delay until at least Jan. 6 their decision on passing a set of commercial wind energy regulations. Commissioners Pat Gabriel, Tim Chesnut and Jerry Kennedy agreed to table their decision on a motion to approve county wind energy regulations because of public comments that the planning and attorney's offices have yet to review.
Teton Wind recently filed an application with the BLM for a second-phase expansion of its county-permitted, 36-turbine White Mountain Wind Energy Project. White Mountain is a popular scenic recreation area that lies northwest of Rock Springs and north and east of the city of Green River, just north of Interstate 80. The project would be located on approximately 13,140 acres of federal, state and private lands on White Mountain.
A quiet land rush is under way among the buttes of southeastern Wyoming, and it is changing the local rancher culture. The whipping winds cursed by descendants of the original homesteaders now have real value for out-of-state developers who dream of wind farms or of selling the rights to bigger companies. But as developers descend upon the area, drawing comparisons to the oil patch "land men" in the movie "There Will Be Blood," the ranchers of Albany, Converse and Platte Counties are rewriting the old script.
A planned wind project near Hanna in Carbon County has raised concerns from some about how it might affect natural and cultural resources in the area. The Medicine Bow Conservation District and the Hanna Historical Society asked Horizon Wind Energy not to harm natural or cultural resources when building its 154-turbine wind project.
The Laramie-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance released a 50-plus page study on Friday, offering recommendations for places in the state the group deems most suitable for wind power development. The report also outlines locations that should be avoided, and the places where the group says developers must tread carefully, for environmental reasons.
When the sun comes up on the other side of the giant white blades, Anaya and Moody say it's as if their homes are under strobe lights. ...others across the country who live near turbines have complained of headaches, dizziness, nausea and other symptoms. They attribute the problems to the proximity of the large machines. It's not just the shadows that cause problems. They say the noise of the turbines causes sleep disruption, headaches, ringing in the ears and other issues, such as memory problems.
Pauley's preliminary survey of experts identified four primary 'drivers' that could affect future wildlife populations. They are: expanding rural subdivisions, energy development, invasive nonnative species and climate change. ...Much of the meeting, which wrapped up Friday, highlighted ongoing research efforts to understand the potential impacts of energy development -- from fossil fuels to wind farms -- on sage grouse, songbirds, elk, mule deer and other species across the state.
This week, Wyoming business leaders gathered to ponder evidence, assertions and projections about Wyoming's future economy in an uncertain future ...The good news for Wyoming is that the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that coal will fill 82 percent of that portfolio, with uranium, hydro-electric and renewables filling in the rest.
Representatives from White Mountain Wind LLC came before the county commissioners yesterday to seek adjustments for the placement of 36 wind turbines on White Mountain. After much discussion, White Mountain Wind withdrew the resolution, in order to bring it back at another time. ...White Mountain Wind asked to untable the resolution to discuss moving the proposed placement of the turbines to locations near the approved locations to make better use of the wind on White Mountain.
Natrona County residents will be able to generate their own electricity with small wind turbines, after the county commission approved new regulations on Tuesday. "What's been adopted really opens it up," Eric Nelson said Thursday. Domestic wind turbines will be permitted uses in all zoned areas, Nelson said. However, an amendment to the regulations will require people living on Casper Mountain to obtain conditional use permits, he said.
The Casper City Council discussed a new ordinance in a recent work session that would outline specific rules for personal wind turbines that could be in the city limits. Some council members support the idea, and said the proposed regulations are specific enough to cover possible problems. Other members worry about the impact wind turbines could have in neighborhoods. "I don't like wind turbines in the city," said Casper Mayor Paul Bertoglio. "There's nothing in this ordinance to allow neighbors to object."
So the emergency regulations require wind energy developers to identify haul routes, obtain weight and size permits, and possible studies of road impacts. "If impacts are determined to exist, a mitigation plan and/or long-term road maintenance agreement may be required at the sole discretion of the Board of County Commissioners," according to the emergency regulations. Besides the plan, the developers will be required to pay for the road use. "We don't want the citizens of Natrona County to be taxed for what the big companies are bringing in," Leist said.
A siting permit for a wind farm that will straddle the Albany County and Carbon County border was approved Thursday by the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council (ISC). At a hearing in the Albany County School District No. 1 Administration Building, the ISC approved a conditional-use permit for Rocky Mountain Power's High Plains and McFadden Ridge wind projects. The permit will allow Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, to build wind towers that will produce 188 megawatts of power on land about 13 miles southwest of Rock River off Wyoming Highway 13.
Duke Energy representatives say the company plans to build a 99-megawatt wind farm near Casper beginning early next year. The Campbell Hill Windpower project -- to be located about 15 miles northeast of Casper -- will consist of 66 wind energy turbines, each generating 1.5 megawatts of electricity. Erection of the wind turbines is slated to begin early next year, with the turbines going online by late 2009.
The two Sweetwater County commissioners stood firm during a meeting Tuesday morning on the proposed locations of the 36 turbines for the White Mountain Wind Energy Project. ...Commissioners were also perturbed that Tasco is seeking federal permission to construct an additional 62 wind turbines on Bureau of Land Management lands on White Mountain and has discussed increasing the size of the original project by as many as 200 additional turbines. "The scope has gone from 30-odd turbines to 200 or so units ... and if that's the case, it's not fair to Sweetwater County for you to bring it to us piecemeal like this," Johnson said.
And turbines are still something of a novelty for most of us, so the "not in my backyard" mentality hasn't yet set in when it comes to wind farms. In fact, as we reported in the Energy Journal, groups of ranchers in eastern Wyoming -- seeing an opportunity to make some money without significantly disrupting their ag operations -- have banded together to market their properties to wind energy developers. That, of course, could change. As turbines begin to spring up in more sensitive, pristine spots, or closer to residential areas, the novelty could wear off quickly.
Wind energy producers could have more hoops to jump through if a draft regulation on wind energy in Goshen County is passed. At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Goshen County commissioners discussed regulating wind energy activities in the county. Goshen County Planner Mel Eaton and Goshen County Planning Commission Chair Mary Beth Downer provided each commissioner with a draft of a regulation on wind energy in Goshen County. Downer said that the bulk of the information in the draft was the "best" ideas from existing regulations in Platte and Albany counties.