The Sweetwater County Commission has approved a conditional use permit for Tasco Engineering to build a 36-turbine wind farm on top of White Mountain near Pilot Butte.
One of the three commissioners opposed the permit.
Commissioner Debbie Dellai-Boese said she has a problem with its location.
“We have the Jonah Field ripping our land apart and all kinds of pollution up there in that area. Wind energy is cleaner and a better source of energy. But I love the desert, and I wish this could have been elsewhere,” she said.
Tasco President Gary Tassainer said the location is near an existing power transmission line that the wind farm could use to send its power to market.
In addition, the wind farm was already moved back from the edge of White Mountain so it would not be visible from Rock Springs, costing “millions of dollars” in lost potential revenue, Tassainer said.
“Most of the people I talk to who oppose it are opposing it for environmental concerns and concerns about the view sheds,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘Go build it in someone else’s backyard.'”
Craig Palmer, a Rock Springs resident, said that White Mountain is a convenient and popular recreation area for people who live nearby and that the wind farm’s detriment to the landscape would be irreversible.
“The wind farm will destroy this natural resource that our ancestors enjoyed and that we will leave to our grandchildren,” he said. “Wyoming is a big state. There’s got to be a lot of places to put a wind farm besides our back door.”
Chris Plant, an instructor at Western Wyoming Community College, asked the commission how much more the community would have to sacrifice for the sake of corporate profit.
Commission Chairman Wally Johnson said he had taken the location of the wind farm into consideration, but decided to vote for the project in the spirit of supporting renewable energy throughout the nation.
“I climb White Mountain, and I walk up there a lot,” Johnson said. “But I had to step back and ask, ‘Do I vote on this according to what I think or what I think is best for the nation?'”
Commissioner Joe Oldfield said he was initially opposed to the wind farm but decided to vote for it largely because the Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism Board decided not to oppose the project.
Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism Director Jenissa Bartlett said the wind farm could enhance tourism by providing tourists with information about the farm and green energy.
Tassainer said he would consider erecting information signs for tourists.
Construction of the wind farm would not begin until 2009 or 2010, he said.
The Associated Press
3 October 2007
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