Library from Wyoming
Efforts to conserve a struggling species of grouse that ranges across the Western U.S. are having far-reaching effects on the region’s energy industry as the Obama administration decides whether the bird needs more protections. ...The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s delay on the parcels underscores just how much is at stake for an industry that finds its future inextricably intertwined with a bird once known primarily for its elaborate mating display.
Alan Minier, the chairman of the Wyoming Public Service Commission, in a Nov. 21 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, wrote that the federal proposal overestimates utilities' ability to improve the efficiency of their coal-fired power plants, overstates the potential growth of renewable power and errs in its calculations concerning Wyoming's natural gas generation. ...The agency assumes the state could install 9.4 million megawatt hours of low-carbon or no-carbon electricity generation by 2030.
Using documents, emails and interviews with former wildlife officials, the AP in articles published last year documented more than four dozen eagle deaths in Wyoming since 2009, and dozens more in California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Corporate surveys showed at least 20 eagles found dead in recent years on Pacificorp wind farms in Wyoming. Wind energy companies objected to the AP’s efforts to uncover more information about the numbers of bird deaths.
A proposal to export twice as much Wyoming wind power to Los Angeles as the amount of electricity generated by the Hoover Dam includes an engineering feat even more massive than that famous structure: Four chambers, each approaching the size of the Empire State Building, would be carved from an underground salt deposit to hold huge volumes of compressed air.
Under the plan proposed on Tuesday, Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy would build and operate a $4 billion wind farm near Chugwater, Wyo., 40 miles north of Cheyenne. It would generate up to 2,100 megawatts of electricity, the bulk of which would be destined for California's Los Angeles basin.
Why on earth would anyone want to get into the costly, complicated business of wind generation and transmission? ...The business case is to bring renewable energy from Wyoming to California. But like anything else, that remains to be seen, so it is a gamble.
The largest proposed onshore wind project in the United States does not need a recently expired federal tax credit to be commercially viable, the head of the company planning to build 1,000 turbines in Carbon County said last week. ...Electricity generated by the nearly $5 billion facility would be cheaper for utilities and consumers alike if Congress were to renew the credit.
Power Company of Wyoming has also applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an eagle take permit, which would allow the company to kill a designated number of raptors each year ...In its application to the state, the company said it intends to provide $1.68 billion in its own funding to build the project. The remaining $3.11 billion will be financed through debt.
Hutchins believes seasonal shutdowns or retrofitting power lines and towers are useful tools for reducing bird deaths once wind farms are up and running. The best strategy, though, is siting the turbines properly in the first place. “Unfortunately, these things are going up anywhere, including in important bird areas, and we think that’s highly problematic,” Hutchins said.
Wasatch Wind’s 80 megawatt Pioneer Park wind farm near Glenrock is the youngest of the Big Three, having first been announced in 2010. We don’t know the project’s exact price tag, but we can be sure it is no less than $190 million because that is the minimum threshold needed for the Department of Environmental Quality’s Industrial Siting Council to consider a project application.
The wind farm, first proposed in 2010, still has several hurdles to clear. Wasatch needs to announce a funding plan by May 18 and begin construction by July 18 to meet the terms of its state siting permit. It is unclear where those efforts now stand.
The Chokecherry/Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project is the largest ever proposed in the United States and would likely slaughter dozens of eagles each year, plus hundreds of additional birds and bats, according to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (BCA).
The American Bird Conservancy, along with the Laramie, Wyo.-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, submitted a 15-page letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service expressing concerns about impacts to golden eagles if the massive Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project is built as proposed in southeast Wyoming. ...There’s simply too little information about eagle populations in the region to know what mitigation strategies would be most effective to protect eagles and to justify a possible eagle take permit,
Wyoming residents enjoy the cheapest electricity prices in the nation, thanks to low-cost power from coal-fired plants near vast surface mines in the Powder River Basin. California, which has all but phased out coal power and has the nation's most aggressive renewable energy laws, has close to the highest prices, according to U.S. Energy Department data.
Utilities are required by a law from 1978 to accept electricity generated by renewable-power projects of less than 100 megawatts. But the law comes with a hitch. Utilities are required to purchase the power only if doing so doesn’t lead to a rate increase for consumers. Current limitations in transmission capacity mean Rocky Mountain Power cannot offer Wasatch a higher price without triggering a rate increase,
The Chokecherry-Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project south of Rawlins is slowly moving through a bureaucratic maze of environmental impact and assessment studies. Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have tentative timelines to complete their respective analysis, it is uncertain when construction will begin.
Wind developers previously had to be in commercial production to qualify for the credit. The IRS issued new guidelines in the summer, saying companies only had to show work had begun. The new guidelines are untested in court, said Lay, a lawyer. “I have no doubt they [the developer] will claim to have met these requirements. Whether that claim stands up to the scrutiny of the IRS and its overseers in the Congress is another question."
The goal is to keep eagle deaths to a minimum and find ways to offset the eagles that will be killed. Company officials say the BLM estimate was drawn from eagle mortality rates at wind farms where measures to protect eagles weren't taken.
The changes include moving the locations of some wind turbines and a substation within the project’s already approved area. ...Pioneer Wind Park will be outside of Glenrock, but construction has been stalled after to a series of legal challenges from residents in the area and financial hurdles.
The federal agency has been working with the developer of the 1,000-turbine Chokecherry/Sierra Madre wind project for three years to make sure the turbines are placed away from areas frequented by eagles. They've been mapping nesting areas and flight corridors on the vast project area south of Rawlins in south-central Wyoming.