CHEYENNE – Ranchers, farmers and landowners here are waiting for their chance to make money from the wind.
In southeast Wyoming, they’ve pledged 1 million acres of land in hopes that wind farm developers will choose them, says Scott Zimmerman, a farmer and rancher in Laramie County.
But Susie Lemaster, who is not an owner of vast acreage, built a house with her husband in the country four years ago near Horse Creek Road.
She doesn’t want to see the neighboring land filled with 500- foot towers topped with rotating blades, making electricity.
But that’s what may be coming.
To her, the ideal distance for wind farms is five miles from residential areas.
“There’s a lot of open space in Laramie County,” Lemaster told the Laramie County Planning Commission on Thursday. “I don’t think anyone would buy (our house) if there was a big wind farm in our backyard.”
Thursday, the planning commission voted 4-0 to postpone a decision on whether to approve rules for building wind turbines.
The biggest point of debate during the meeting was defining the distance that turbines should stand from roads and houses.
In the proposed rules, turbines could stand about 1,000 feet from public roads and 1,250 feet – about a quarter-mile – from houses.
Many ranchers, landowners and wind energy developers spoke up, saying the setbacks are too strict. That will send energy developers elsewhere.
Only two rural homeowners who favor bigger setbacks spoke out.
The planning commissioners indicated they thought a formula based on the size of the machines would be fairer.
After the vote, Laramie County planner Gary Kranse said he plans to use this setback formula: 1.5 times the height of the tower added to the diameter of the blades.
Kranse said safety is the primary reason for setbacks. Towers can collapse or burn. And in the winter, the turning blades toss off large chunks of ice.
Ranchers like the idea of building wind farms on their properties. As John Francis explained it, turbines don’t need water; and they have little impact on the ground and none on the air itself.
But Zimmerman said the biggest impediment to developing these is infrastructure: There’s a lack of transmission lines to carry the electricity.
Still, it’s a way to make money in a time when it’s getting more difficult to do that off the land.
Chris Land of Sandecker Renewable Energies said he is working with one client with 1,000 acres of land. Laramie County’s proposed rules would allow nine turbines. Were that land in Minnesota, he could fit in 39 turbines. That’s because their setbacks are based on a formula.
The planning commission plans to vote on the rules at its next meeting on June 26. They would then move to the Laramie County Commission for a final vote on July 1.
Kranse said the revised rules should be posted on Laramie County’s Web site by June 18.
By Jodi Rogstad
Source: Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
18 June 2008
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