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So far this year, no developers have visited the state's Industrial Siting Division to discuss any new wind energy project plans, said Todd Parfitt, administrator for the division, which is part of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
US developer Wasatch Wind has postponed the completion of a 100MW project in Wyoming until 2013 due to legal appeals by an opposition group, which have forced it to terminate a power-purchase agreement (PPA) with the state's largest electricity utility.
Meanwhile, with the delay for Pioneer I construction until at least 2013, Wasatch's 50-megawatt power purchase agreement with Rocky Mountain Power was terminated because the company could not fulfill the contractual terms to begin delivering power in October. The agreement is vital to the project because it assures financial backers that the wind power can be sold.
Wasatch said the delay comes because numerous legal challenges to the project by the Northern Laramie Range Alliance have made it impossible to start generating power on that site by October, forcing the company to break a power purchase agreement with Rocky Mountain Power.
Reed and Scott paid phone solicitors to make cold calls to investors, telling them that the wind farms were being constructed jointly by private investors and the U.S. government. Potential stakeholders were told that "government funds had been set aside by the President of the United States ...these alleged wind farm projects."
No developer with state turbine permits in hand has abandoned a project, Parfitt said. But a number of wind farms are on hold, have yet to complete additional construction phases or are still dealing with a range of issues.
The Sweetwater County Commission approved a temporary halt to applications for commercial wind farms, pending changes in county rules and public meetings. The county has not met state standards for wind farm zoning, and Commission Chairman Wally Johnson said that the county is not ready for any new wind farm projects.
The Northern Laramie Range Alliance appealed the permits granted by the Converse County Commission in May and by the state Industrial Siting Council -- a state board that must approve large commercial projects in the state -- in June.
Construction on a wind tower manufacturing facility that was supposed to employ 150 in Laramie County has been delayed until at least next spring. This throws up "caution flags," said Randy Bruns, CEO of Cheyenne LEADS, the economic development corporation for Cheyenne and Laramie County.
A federal jury awarded Tetra Tech EC Inc. $1,495,539 against Jerry Herling Construction Inc. for breaching its contract by failing to pay its vendors, according to its verdict after a two-week trial in October. Some of those vendors are Wyoming businesses, according to bankruptcy court records.
"I think it's fair to say our commission is torn about the wind projects in our county," he said. "It's hard to argue against green energy, but quite honestly, is it any more economical than other forms of energy, if the tax incentives weren't in place?" Reid's concerns about the value of wind energy match those in the larger national debate about renewable, or "green," energy.
The matter of protecting eagles reflects a continuing effort on the part of the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Teton Wind Power to mitigate impacts on the birds. She said U.S. Fish and Wildlife discovered three eagle nests in the project area and is the lead agency working to craft a protection plan.
Policy advisers to Mead as well as lobbyists for the wind energy industry had testified in favor of the bill. Its defeat by the committee leaves no apparent barriers to the state's starting to impose sales and use taxes on wind projects next year. In addition, the state next year is set to start imposing a $1-per-megawatt tax on wind energy production.
A new proposal to build a 72-turbine wind farm on the south side of Aspen Mountain was presented at the Sweetwater County Commission meeting on Tuesday. The project is sponsored by enXco. ...However, several commissioners said it would be located in an area full of wildlife.
Several Rawlins residents at the open house were concerned about how the turbines will affect their view of Miller Hill, Sheep Mountain and other landmarks. Many people expressed disappointment some wind turbines would be visible from I-80. Residents were also concerned about the effect on hunting in the area.
The Northern Laramie Range Alliance, or NRLA, a vocal group of nearby landowners and others opposed to the project, announced its plans for the lawsuit Tuesday. "We are disappointed with the decision of the Industrial Siting Council, as we believe Wasatch Wind did not meet the statuatory requirements.
In deliberations before their decision, commissioners expressed concern about how the wind turbines would affect nearby landowners, which mirrored complaints from the alliance and others. Some commissioners also were deeply concerned about the financial stability of California-based Edison Mission Energy.
"The radar system to keep the turbine lights off at night is very important to us because it will resolve the largest concern we've heard among the residents and local governments of Converse and Natrona counties — keeping the night skies dark."
A permit from the council is required for any wind energy project with 30 or more towers. The Wasatch wind farms, dubbed Pioneer I and II, will generate 100 megawatts of electricity apiece and cost between $180 million to $200 million, according to the company.
The commissioners emphasized that they would accept public comment up to when they make the decision. That decision date is not yet set but will be within 45 days of Monday's hearing. "We're not going to make a decision tonight," he said. "I think we have too much to digest."