With several projects on the horizon, all is not lost for Wyoming’s wind energy industry. But you couldn’t tell it from the number of developer requests for state wind farm permits.
Of the nearly 1,500 wind farm turbines approved by state officials, slightly more than half have been built and the rest are canceled or in limbo.
That would be a troubling enough for Wyoming’s wind energy development. But even new requests for state permits have slowed to a halt.
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.
“We haven’t had any new permits come through Industrial Siting for wind energy, anyway,” he said.
The year so far completes a sharp drop in permit request from 2010, when 353 turbines were permitted. Only 62 turbines, those slated for Wasatch Wind’s Pioneer Park wind energy project south of Glenrock, got the green light in 2011.
Still, the year will yet bring one permit request, but it’ll be a large one.
Power Co. of Wyoming will submit its application to state officials in November for its Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, PCW spokeswoman Kara Choquette confirmed. The company will also pursue an OK from county officials.
If built, the project would erect 1,000 turbines in Carbon County and more than double the state’s total of constructed turbines.
The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Denver-based Anschutz Corp., received a final federal environmental impact statement, or EIS, in early July.
While the statement is now up for review and public comment, it’s a big step for the project, which has been targeted by the Obama administration as a renewable energy project worthy of priority attention.
The 2,500- to 3,000-megawatt project, the single largest in the U.S. and possibly the world, was touted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a July news release as part of a national “renewable energy revolution.”
The federal priority project designation did speed up the project, said Loyd Drain, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority.
“I personally think there was some benefit for that,” he said. “To me, it’s wonderful that final EIS is published, and it’ll be an even better day when they issue a record of decision. Hopefully that’ll come in the next few months.”
The state’s Industrial Siting Council reviews and permits large industrial projects in the state, including wind farms.
Three projects were permitted by the state but have yet to be constructed. Those projects are Third Planet Windpower’s Reno Junction project near Wright, Novelution Wind’s Chugwater Flats northeast of Chugwater and Wasatch Wind’s Pioneer Park project south of Glenrock.
Officials with neither Third Planet nor Novelution responded to a request for comment. Earlier this year Parfitt said the Industrial Siting Division was awaiting more financial information from Third Planet Windpower and was unsure why Novelution hadn’t moved ahead with the first phase of its project.
Wasatch Wind spokeswoman Michelle Stevens said the developer continues to deal with legal challenges from a local landowners’ group, and internal planning and engineering work continue.
Developers have proposed a number of projects in the state, but then put them on hold or canceled them, according to the latest project list from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s office in Wyoming.
Those include several projects in southern Wyoming which if built, would add a significant total of additional turbines to the state.
Those projects include the Whirlwind project proposed for Carbon County by the Wold Companies and Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy and Teton Wind LLC’s White Mountain project in Sweetwater County. Both projects total at least several hundred turbines.
None of the projects have progressed to the point where developers are approaching state officials about a permit application. However, the Industrial Siting Division is tracking one other prospective wind farm — the Hermosa West project in southern Albany County, Parfitt said.
While developer Shell WindEnergy Inc. has yet to speak to the division staff members about permits for the 300-megawatt project south of Laramie abutting the Colorado border, it is still moving through a federal environmental impact review.
Companies come into the Industrial Siting Division to talk about wind energy development, but not to request permits or talk about planned projects, Parfitt said.
Between the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre project and the Hermosa West project, Parfitt said, “that’s pretty much it.”