Wyoming Board Approves Largest US Wind Farm

Monday, 11 Aug 2014 12:01 PM

By John Blosser

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A massive wind turbine project planned for Wyoming, the largest onshore wind farm in the United States, moved one step closer to reality with the unanimous approval of the Industrial Siting Council to move forward.

The council voted to allow Power Company of Wyoming to construct 1,000 wind turbines, with the goal of producing 3,000 megawatts of electricity, or 10 million megawatt hours per year, for sale to Nevada, Arizona, and California, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

The nearly $5 billion project would be funded by $1.68 billion from the energy company Anschutz Corp., which owns Power Company of Wyoming (PCW), plus $3.11 billion in debt, and would generate total tax revenues of $780.5 million over the next 28 years.

PCW anticipates that the wind farm, called the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, will generate 945 jobs at peak, with 429 workers between May and November on average, and employ about 114 employees permanently over the 20-year lifespan of the project.

The wind farm would be located on a 320,000-acre spread three miles south of Rawlins and Sinclair, and would occupy about 2,000 total acres of land, with white turbine towers standing 328 feet tall, each bearing three blades of up to 200 feet long apiece, powering generators that create electricity.

None of the electricity would be used in Wyoming, which derives most of its power from Powder River Basin coal deposits and has no environmental regulations that limit the burning of coal for electrical generation. California regulations call for the state to derive one-third of its power needs from alternative sources by 2020, and the state has all but phased out coal power, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The situation sets up a political conundrum for California politicians, who would like to see California build its own alternative electrical generating facilities instead, and question whether buying alternative energy from a state that generates its own electricity by burning coal accomplishes environmental goals, even though the project would generate as much electricity as three nuclear reactors.

"If we are taking renewable power from Wyoming, while they burn coal, then you aren't accomplishing very much," Severin Borenstein of the University of California-Berkeley, told the Times.

However, PCW sees profit potential in renewable energy regulations in California, Nevada, and Arizona, which create a need for alternative energy sources.

Bill Miller, in charge of building the project, told the Times that the Wyoming project could deliver power to Californians much cheaper than California could build its own plants. Not a "green" supporter, Miller told the Times, "The enviros look at us and wonder what we are all about. We got into renewable because we think it is good business."

The project is awaiting federal environmental and wildlife impact statements, and is currently negotiating sales agreements with utilities companies.

"We are very pleased that the council voted to grant PCW a permit for is wind project," PCW's general counsel Roxane Peruso, said in a statement to the Casper Star-Tribune. "This is another significant milestone in the development process."

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