A newly proposed wind power project in southern Wyoming would be one of the biggest in the world, and would more than triple the current number of utility-sized wind turbines in the Cowboy State.
The proposal involves two adjacent wind farms in Carbon County that would be erected along a gusty ridge five to eight miles south of Rawlins – with a total of 1,000 turbines producing 2,000 megawatts of electricity, said Bruce Collins, spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management’s Rawlins office.
The two farms, taken together, would be one of the largest wind power projects on the planet, surpassing the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Taylor County, Texas, which has 421 turbines and a production capacity of 735 megawatts, according to Florida Power and Light, the owner of the Texas wind farm.
In general, one megawatt of electricity can power about 750 homes at any given moment.
“This is, to our knowledge, the largest one that has been proposed to date in Wyoming. And it may be the largest one ever for the BLM, but we don’t really know,” Collins said.
The preliminary proposal for the wind project was submitted by the Power Company of Wyoming LLC, an affiliate of the Denver-based Anschutz Corp. The two farms would be built, in part, on private land owned by Anschutz that is currently used for grazing livestock, Collins said.
The Anschutz land exists in what federal authorities call the “checkerboard,” where private and public lands are interspersed similar to the way the dark and light squares of a checkerboard are.
All of the private land affected by the new wind farms would be Anschutz land, but because parts of the farms would traverse BLM land, the company is working collaboratively with the federal agency to develop a public process that will examine the potential environmental and social impacts of the proposal.
Representatives of the Anschutz Corp. were unavailable for comment Friday.
Collins said company officials had informed him they were not prepared yet to talk to the media about any of the details of the project.
The Power Company of Wyoming is in the process of developing three-dimensional, virtual-reality simulations of the proposed project, which should be available on the Web in the coming weeks, Collins said. They will allow people to “see” the completed farms as they’d appear on the landscape from various angles and perspectives.
“The BLM has asked them early on to think about the visual impacts,” Collins said. “The public will have the ability to see what this would look like. They’ll be able to do a virtual fly-over and see it from various angles, and from key observation points.”
The BLM will publish a notice of intent for the project in the Federal Register in the coming days, he said, and will announce the dates of initial public “scoping” meetings soon. The public meetings will most likely be scheduled in Saratoga, Rawlins, Sinclair and possibly Baggs, Collins said, and public input at the meetings, and throughout the process, will be “essential.”
There will be a single environmental analysis completed for the two farms because they’re being proposed by the same company, and they will be next to each other, Collins said. So the two will be considered components of one large project.
Although it wasn’t required, the Power Company has volunteered to work with the BLM to complete a more rigorous environmental impact statement, rather than an environmental assessment.
The company opted for the more thorough approach, Collins said, perhaps in recognition of the huge scale of the proposal.
Because of the scope of the proposal and the amount of time that will be required to complete the environmental study, the BLM has hired Jerry Crockford to manage the project for the agency, Collins said.
Crockford is retired from the BLM and had previously worked in the Buffalo office, among others. Crockford will report to the BLM’s Rawlins field manager, but his salary, as is common practice, will be paid by the project applicant, Collins said.
It’s impossible to predict how long the environmental analysis will take, he said, although Collins anticipates the process will consume at least two years.
As for when the turbines might be up, spinning and making juice, Collins said it would be inappropriate for him to guess.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Wyoming currently ranks 13th in the nation with 349 megawatts of installed wind generation capacity. If both of these proposed farms are built, the added capacity would make Wyoming the third-biggest wind energy generator in the nation, behind Texas and California.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
* Last we knew: A number of new wind farms are under construction in Wyoming.
* The latest: A new proposal calls for construction of 1,000 wind turbines near Rawlins.
* What’s next: An environmental study of the plan will begin soon.
* 1,000 – Total number of 2-megawatt turbines that could be constructed five to eight miles south of Rawlins.
* 304 – Number of utility-sized wind turbines currently in operation throughout the Cowboy State.
* 2,000 megawatts – Estimated combined production of the two proposed farms at any given moment.
* 735 megawatts – Capacity of what is currently the world’s largest wind farm in Taylor County, Texas.
* 750 – Number of homes, on average, that can be powered by one megawatt of electricity.
* 2 years – Amount of time it should take for the BLM and the Anschutz Corp. to complete the environmental analysis of the proposal.
By Chris Merrill
Star-Tribune environment writer
11 July 2008
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