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Converse County residents remain staunchly divided on the issue of whether to allow wind development in the northern Laramie Range. More than 100 people crammed into the Converse County Courthouse on Tuesday night to testify for and against a proposal that would place a 90-day moratorium on all industrial development south and west of Interstate 25 on lands 5,500 feet in elevation and higher.
A landowners group continues its push for a moratorium on large industrial development ...The alliance previously persuaded the planning and zoning commission to recommend to the Converse County Commission an immediate 30-day moratorium, but the commission declined. Alliance organizers now say they've refined their request to apply the moratorium to a certain elevation threshold limited only to the mountainous area south and west of Interstate 25 in Converse County.
Wind energy development in Wyoming garnered unprecedented attention this year as the state wrestled with regulation, taxation and environmental protection issues. ...Last month, the Joint Revenue Committee decided against sponsoring two bills that would have imposed generation taxes on wind energy. Gov. Dave Freudenthal had supported the concept of a wind tax to raise state and local revenues, as did local government officials.
If wind power is the answer, then the question must be "How can we do the most environmental damage, with the least results and for the most cost"? ...The problem with wind is the same as it was 30 years ago. Wind can generate power but that power cannot be stored. Modern society relies on power being available at the flip of a switch.
Local wind groups strive to stay below a definition for small wind farms of 20 megawatts or less to avoid more detailed transmission studies. ...There also is controversy about how much a project should pay to use lines. Since many lines have been paid off, charging for new generation is viewed as problematic. Groups like Woolsey's often concentrate on debt service first, so after about 10 years, they are able to sell electricity at a cheap rate.
The Albany County Commission approved in its first meeting of the month on Tuesday part of a wind farm that will straddle the Albany County-Carbon County line. The commissioners approved a permit for 28 1.5-megawatt wind turbines for the North Rim Wind Energy Conversion System, which will be owned and operated by AES Wind Generation ...In addition to the permit for 28 turbines in Albany County, AES plans to install nine turbines on the Carbon County portion of the project for a total generating capacity of 55.5 megawatts of electricity.
The Northern Laramie Range Alliance announced it will establish a tax-exempt corporation to buy up state leases in order to prevent the development of wind energy. The effort is aimed at "preserving the agricultural, historic, recreational and natural heritage of central Wyoming's Northern Laramie Range," according to the alliance.
In an effort to slow the winds of change, the Converse County Planning and Zoning Commission voted Oct. 20 to recommend that the county commissioners consider a 90-day county-wide "freeze" on all large scale industrial development. "From my personal perspective, this says that we want to do business, but we want to do business in a very logical and orderly fashion," said P&Z member David Pellatz. "It's a very different message in my mind. We're not talking bans. We're not talking never can do it."
The Power Company of Wyoming is moving forward with plans to build a 1,000-turbine wind farm that overlaps with areas identified by the state as critical sage grouse habitat, the company's president said. More than half of the company's Chokecherry and Sierra Madre project is proposed for land identified by the state as "core population area" in Carbon County.
Kenneth G. Lay, a founder of the group, said its members aren't opposed to industrial scale wind development in places such as Wyoming's eastern plains, where landowners are actively marketing their land to wind developers. But the group doesn't want a big wind farm in an area it describes as "scenic, multiple-use landscapes." The group is also concerned about developers quietly negotiating with individual landowners. "We think there needs to be a responsible siting process that is going to balance a lot of interests that everybody has," said Lay.
Some at last week's Wyoming Wind Symposium proffered what seemed to be a good idea: bury the hundreds of miles of transmission lines needed to send wind-generated electricity to market. But underground transmission has two basic problems: -- It's very expensive. -- It apparently won't work.
Developers say three of the biggest road blocks to constructing wind farms in Wyoming are uncertainty over transmission infrastructure, government regulation and taxes _ all topics examined at a state conference Thursday. Gov. Dave Freudenthal's Wind Energy Symposium began with a day of wide-ranging discussion of Wyoming's burgeoning wind industry and the challenges and benefits it poses for the state's economy and environment.
Wind farms are becoming a familiar site along Wyoming's interstates and highways. Residents know wind development is out there and that there is a lot of it. What they do not know is how the industry will alter the state's landscape in the future.
It's understandable that wind power companies are confused about Wyoming's attitude toward wind energy development. In a period of less than two years, the state has gone from offering a tax incentive aimed at spurring construction of wind farms to eliminating that incentive and restricting where turbines can be built. The sudden shift in sentiment has come in reaction to a significant increase in the number of wind farms planned in Wyoming ...Quite frankly, the state has been caught unprepared to deal with the wind energy boom.
Wyoming needs a statewide strategy. So far in Wyoming, companies have proposed and developed "wind projects" by leasing private land and/or using company-owned land to erect towers, he said. While these wind farms are generating electricity, they're also generating conflicts about the proximity of towers -- and transmission lines -- to landowners, and a seeming helter-skelter approach to energy development, Meyer said.
The state board of Land Commissioners on Friday voted to withdraw from wind energy development about 1 million acres of state land within the core sage grouse population areas. The board action will not affect wind leases issued earlier within the core areas, said Lynne Boomgaarden, director of the Office of State Lands and Investments. The state office has received 32 special-use leasing applications for wind energy development, including 18 within an identified core sage grouse population area, she said.
The Uinta County Commissioners voted unanimously to deny two conditional use permits that would have allowed an additional 120 wind turbines on Bridger Butte. Bridger Butte Wind Power and Bridger Butte Wind Power II, being run by Tasco Engineering, wanted to add the turbines in the general area of Bigelow Road, and extending southward from the current project.
Some contractors and subcontractors that have built wind farms have blown through central Wyoming faster than the currents their turbines are harnessing, short-changing local businesses in the process, Converse County Sheriff Clint Becker said Tuesday. Becker wanted to know if Fortune 500 company Duke Energy will show the same disdain if it wins the permits to build the estimated $400 million, 200-megawatt Top of the World Windpower Project.
Although wind developers expect turbines and mechanical upgrades to easily exceed 20-year contractual warranties and power purchase agreements, there's no set standard for setting aside funds to decommission wind turbines and related facilities. "That's probably one of the largest areas of concern I hear as a policymaker," said Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock.
Duke Energy plans to build a 200 megawatt wind farm northeast of Glenrock, a company representative told the Natrona County Commission on Monday. "It's a site I found," Sean McCabe told the commissioners at a work session. "It has abundant and proven wind resources." Duke Energy began collecting meteorological data in the area about two years ago, the same time it acquired Tierra Energy and Catamount Energy for wind generation projects, he said.