GLENROCK – A PacifiCorp proposal to build a 66-turbine, 99-megawatt wind farm has doubled in size since the plans were announced about five months ago.
Now, PacifiCorp is proposing two projects of 66 turbines each, with the potential for a third project, all located on property the company owns about 12 miles north of Glenrock at the former Dave Johnston coal mine.
“We are looking at the opportunity to site a third wind project on the same property in the future,” said Jeff Hymas, PacifiCorp spokesman. “We plan to have the Glenrock and Rolling Hills projects up and running by the end of 2008. A third project would be down the road.”
In its application to the state Department of Environmental Quality’s Industrial Siting Division, PacifiCorp said the primary reasons for pursuing the project are an availability of wind; proximity to existing transmission lines; the fact that the company already owns the land; and that developing energy at the site is a beneficial use of the reclaimed coal mine.
“We’re going to be able to reuse land that was mined for more than 40 years to now produce electricity again, but this time, using a renewable energy source,” Hymas said.
The application, which covers more than 300 pages, details PacifiCorp’s construction plans and potential environmental issues. Also evaluated is demographic information of communities expected to be affected by construction – in this case, an area defined loosely as from Casper south to Wheatland and from Douglas to Wright. The Industrial Siting Council will decide whether to issue a permit enabling construction.
Industrial siting permits are required for projects with construction costs of at least $163 million. PacifiCorp’s application states capital cost expenditures are estimated in excess of $400 million for the two projects.
Impact fees based on increases in sales taxes during construction are distributed using a formula decided by the affected communities. That money is intended to help cities and counties address impacts. Fees are calculated using a baseline of the past several years of sales taxes. Communities get assistance based on increases realized during construction.
However, due to a state sales tax exemption for alternative energy projects, PacifiCorp anticipates it will not owe sales and use taxes, according to the application document. Hymas noted that the tax breaks help Wyoming in other ways.
“It helps make it a more attractive site for companies to locate wind projects,” he said.
Economic benefits should still arise. PacifiCorp anticipates a nine-month construction phase with a peak of 187 workers in July, according to the application. PacifiCorp plans to house workers in motels in Glenrock, Douglas and Rolling Hills, and in RV parks. If other options are not available, the company would set up temporary living facilities at the old Dave Johnston mine operations site. As a final contingency, the company would install a work camp at the site, the application states.
Construction should start no later than the second quarter of 2008, pending permits, and both wind projects would be operational by the end of the year, Hymas said. Once they’re operational, Rocky Mountain Power will retain about 15 full-time employees. Those jobs will likely include engineers, turbine maintenance and operations, and computer technicians.
The Glenrock and Rolling Hills wind projects would produce cumulatively nearly 200 megawatts of power.
“This is exciting,” Hymas said. “It’s all part of our plans to have a total of at least 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy in our resource mix by 2013.”
Advances in new transmission capability and a similar wind farm, the Seven-Mile Hill project near Medicine Bow, should help the company realize that goal. Plus, Rocky Mountain Power plans to invest $4 billion over the next 10 years in transmission projects throughout its system.
“We’re continuing to look at other locations in the states we serve for additional wind projects,” Hymas added.
Rocky Mountain Power operates in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. Sister company Pacific Power serves customers in Oregon, Washington and California.
By Rena Delbridge
8 December 2007
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