Articles from Wyoming
To reach the ultimate goal of wind producing 20 percent of the energy used in this country by 2030, tens of thousands of 200-foot-high turbines must be installed nationwide, with many of them slated for gusty public lands in Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. That's sparked a fight that looks much like the one waged about natural gas in the past couple of decades. Only this time the battle lines are drawn in unexpected places.
Developing a wind turbine manufacturing and servicing industry in Natrona County is hampered by a lack of buildings large enough to house the massive equipment, a local economic development expert says. Robert Barnes, president and CEO of the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance, pointed out that it takes a large structure to contain a bay area that can accommodate a 75-foot wind turbine blade.
Federal officials are again delaying whether to list sage grouse in 11 Western states as threatened or endangered -- leaving in limbo until at least 2010 a spate of industries that could face sweeping restrictions if the bird is protected. The chicken-sized grouse ranges from Montana to California alongside livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling and an increasing number of wind power turbines.
A company plans to build a $420 million wind farm with 133 turbines in southwest Campbell County. San Ramon, Calif.-based Third Planet Windpower is eyeing 14,000 acres for the project on both sides of Wyoming Highway 50 near the Johnson County line. The company has begun talking to local landowners about leasing land.
Campbell County has been the epicenter of energy development in Wyoming since the county's first coal mine opened. Then came the oil, followed by natural gas. But many thought Campbell County would not buy into the wind energy industry. ..."The wind is not quite as good (as it is in southeast Wyoming), but it is still economically developable," Clark said. "It is just so far from transmission."
The mining industry must fight the federal climate legislation Congress is now considering and seek investment in carbon capture technology, National Mining Association President Hal Quinn said Thursday. Quinn addressed the Wyoming Mining Association convention in Laramie.
Regulation of wind energy is a step that ranchers and landowners can agree needs to happen before it becomes a thriving industry in Wyoming. They've seen what has happened before with coal, oil and coal-bed methane when those industries popped up in the last century, and they want to forego the same troubles as before.
Neighbors of the proposed wind farm northeast of Evansville reasserted their claim this week that they did not receive adequate notice of the county's final vote to approve conditional use permits for the project, according to court documents. They still want 7th District Court to review and declare invalid the Natrona County Board of County Commissioners' approval of the permits because the county violated the terms of its own Wind Energy Conversion System Emergency Regulations approved last fall.
Development of wind energy and sage grouse protection are on a collision course in Wyoming, where state officials are worried that a future Endangered Species Act listing for the chicken-like bird could ruin the golden egg laid by the Obama administration's renewable energy mandates. ..."The bird does well in the existing conditions that are out here. It's the new threat from wind energy that has got us so worried," said Aaron Clark, special adviser on energy infrastructure to Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D). "I don't think you could justify a [federal endangered species] listing for that bird in Wyoming without the threat from wind development."
In the high-stakes game of preserving sage grouse, biologists say they're still figuring out how the birds will react to the influx of wind turbines rising up from the wide-open sagebrush plains where the birds evolved. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 15 months ago commenced a review of whether sage grouse should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Power Company of Wyoming, an affiliate of Denver-based Anschutz Corp., wants to build 1,000 wind turbines ...The influx of wind developers has raised hopes for jobs and economic development, but has also prompted concerns about erecting hundreds of 230-foot-tall turbines on largely undeveloped land. Locals and land managers, many of them veterans of the decade-long gas boom that brought a frenzy of development to Wyoming, point to the wind boom's potential downsides for wildlife, landscape vistas and local infrastructure.
A task force began a study Wednesday of what Gov. Dave Freudenthal described as the "gold rush" of wind energy development. Representatives of the governor's office, all affected state and federal agencies, industry and various conservation and landowner groups over-filled the large meeting room on the third floor of the Capitol Building for the organizational meeting. Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, was chosen chairman of the task force and Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Pine Bluffs, was named vice chairman.
Chevron Global Power Co. will begin construction on its 11-turbine wind farm project northeast of Evansville despite the litigation from its neighbors, a spokeswoman said Friday. "Our plan is to proceed with the project unless instructed not to," Jennifer Silva said Wednesday. ...The neighbors filed a petition on April 24 asking 7th District Court to review and invalidate the county commission's approval of two conditional use permits and for a variance. They claimed the county violated its own Wind Energy Conversion System Emergency Regulations approved last fall, according to the petitioners' attorney Michael McGrady.
About 200 concerned citizens flocked to Douglas May 7 for the first meeting of the Northern Laramie Range Alliance, an organization of landowners and citizens bent on stopping the development of wind turbines and the construction of a segment of Rocky Mountain Power's proposed Gateway West Transmission Line in the northern Laramie Mountains. "The main objective of the (Northern Laramie Range Alliance) is that we want to successfully oppose both of these things," Kenneth Lay, one of the alliance's founding members, explained.
Dozens of rural landowners want to "curb enthusiasm for" and ultimately kill plans to plant wind turbines and string a green-field power line segment across the northern Laramie Range in Converse and Albany counties. The areas in question are mostly private lands described as pristine mountain wilderness and home to some of the best elk herds in the state. "It's finally dawned on us what the scale of wind development plans is in the state," said Kenneth C. Lay, a Laramie Range landowner and organizer of the new landowners group, Northern Laramie Range Alliance.
The Natrona County Commission has had three years to consider how to regulate commercial wind farms here. ...But there were no county guidelines for construction of wind farms three years ago. In fact, the county commission didn't approve its wind farm regulations until last September. ...after more than a dozen public meetings over the last two years, neighboring property owners have petitioned a 7th District Court judge to invalidate the permits approved by the county commissioners.
A community meeting to clear the air about Houston-based Chevron Global Power's proposed wind farm kicked up clouds about county regulations and company behavior at the Evansville school on Tuesday evening. ..."The issue is about you," responded Charlie Miller of the Elkhorn Creek Ranch LLC, whose property shares the southern fence line of the site. "Nobody wants this except you people," Miller said later. "Take it back to Houston with you."
The proposed wind power project on the top of White Mountain has generated tremendous interest locally in wind energy. Local residents were able to hear a variety of view points on the topic last Wednesday, at a wind forum hosted by the Sweetwater County Commissioners. Mark Kot, Sweetwater County Planning and Zoning Director, and organizer of the event, opened by saying this was neither a forum on the White Mountain project, or a public hearing.
The Natrona County Commissioners formally voted on Feb. 3 to approve a zoned use control area and the conditional use permits that would allow wind turbines within the former north tank farm area of the closed refinery. Construction was planned to start in May. But last week, the preparations for the county's first WECS (Commercial Wind Energy Conversion System) generated a gust of concern from the Natrona County Commission.
The wind energy boom blowing through Sweetwater County will be a gale force soon and could threaten the region's quality of life, a host of speakers said this week. Officials urged residents to get involved early and often in the decision-making process. To be determined is where, how and how much energy development will occur in the county's mostly undeveloped wind power industry.