The Sweetwater County Planning and Zoning Board heard an application by Tasco Engineering to create a wind farm near Pilot Butte.
In a 3-1 vote, they approved the plan for a wind farm on White Mountain.
The lone dissenter, Sue Regano, said she hoped more people would discuss the possible effects on local wild horse populations.
“We’re glad someone’s looking at (Sweetwater County) for renewable energy,” board member Glenn Sugano said before the vote.
The wind farm, a $100 million project consisting of 36 wind generators, will be built on land owned by the Rock Springs Grazing Association.
The grazing association’s land creates a checkerboard with land owned by the Bureau of Land Management. The proposed project would take up six individual plots of land along White Mountain Road, also known as the Wild Horse Loop Road.
According to documents released from the planning and zoning department, Tasco Engineering paid Rock Springs Grazing Association $10,000 for a lease to build the wind farm on RSGA property.
The wind generators were originally planned to have a total height of 168 meters tall with a hub height of 79 meters and blade diameters of 89 meters, according to documents provided by planning and zoning. Converted to standard measurement, the generators would be more than 500 feet tall.
At the meeting however, it was announced that the generators would be 387 feet tall.
Original site data suggested the wind generators would not be visible from Rock Springs and Green River, however they would be visible from the Eden-Farson area, the Little Firehole Turnout and Western Wyoming Community College’s Green River Campus. However, during the presentation made today, Tasco Engineering said they would only be visible from the Eden-Farson Area.
However, also in the report, Tasco Engineering admits the generators could be seen in Rock Springs from locations where Pilot Butte can be seen.
“We completely understand the historical and cultural resource of Pilot Butte. We will not construct on the Butte, and are proposing turbines construction at approximately one mile. Pilot Butte is not visible from Rock Springs in most locations, and therefore when it is visible, the turbines will be visible also,” the conditional use application requirements document states.
The wind generation project is expected to last 20-25 years. According to the application requirements document, when the project reaches the end of its life, the land could either be reclaimed or the equipment repowered and the life of the project expanded.
“In general, the land will be returned to its natural state when the project is completed,” according to the document.
Gary Tassainer, president of Tasco Engineering, said a similar project his company is working near Fort Bridger, will have wind generators built near Bridger Butte.
Tassainer said of all the conditional use permit’s his company applied for, Sweetwater County’s requirements were the “most intense” requirements he has seen.
Tassainer said construction would not occur between November and April in accordance with the critical winter range timeline game animals.
Tassainer added that data gathered about the smooth tower, slower blade wind generators in use don’t pose a great risk to predatory birds, saying research suggested that the death rate among birds was lower than bird fatalities caused by automobiles.
After the meeting, Tassainer said the only opposition the project had was from Planning and Zoning Director Mark Kot, commenting about Pilot Butte being a scenic resource.
“Pilot Butte is a scenic resource, I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who’ll argue that,” Kot said.
“We don’t have a lot of comment (about the proposed project)– that totally surprises me,” Kot added.
“The wild horses will not be interrupted after construction is complete,” Tassainer said addressing concerns about wild horses near the project area.
The Sweetwater County Board of Commissioners will have the final say on the project when they meet Oct. 3.
By David Martin
12 September 2007
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