A new wind farm project is on the horizon and representatives of the company proposing the farm discussed their project with the Sweetwater County Commissioners yesterday afternoon.
The project is proposed by Enxco, a company with experience in developing 51 wind projects in 15 states. Its Quaking Aspen Wind Farm is proposed to be placed 11.5 miles south of Rock Springs near the south side of Aspen Mountain.
According to Nate Sandvig, site developer for Enxco, the project will involve 72 wind generators ranging from 1.6-1.8 megawatts apiece. The turbines would not be visible from either Rock Springs or the top of White Mountain.
The company has negotiated an interconnection agreement with Pacificorp to provide 150 megawatts while its notice of intent lists a maximum of 250 megawatts to accommodate for future wind turbine technology.
Sandvig said the project involves 3,397 acres of land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management, 610 acres of state lands and another 3,645 acres of land owned by private entities.
Lance Porter, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Rock Springs Field Office, said the BLM expects to start its scoping process sometime in December, after the notice of intent is published in the Federal Register.
Porter, at the request of Commissioner Reid West, also gave a quick update of other wind projects.
The Teton Wind Project, which plans to put 240 wind generators on White Mountain, was asked to study and draft a plan protecting avian and bat populations found on the mountain. Porter said the study must have at least 12 months of data and said the company should be finished with their study in the spring of 2012.
The Sweeney Wind Project was recently placed on hold as the company behind the project is still negotiating power purchase agreements.
Commissioner Wally Johnson warned Sandvig and the other presenters about the controversy the wind farm proposal would generate amongst county residents. Johnson said while Carbon and Uinta Counties have wind projects, Sweetwater does not have one.
“It’s okay if the rest of the state laughs at Sweetwater County. We know what we have here … it’s a treasure,” West said.
Johnson continued by saying he supports the development of natural resources. However, when the resource is depleted, such as in the case of a coal mine or gas well, the area is reclaimed.
According to Johnson, once the reclamation is completed, no one would know what used to be at the site.
However, Johnson said wind will be around forever and said his main problem with wind farms is that the towers will be around forever as well.
Commissioner John Kolb asked about light pollution caused by aircraft avoidance lights on wind towers.
Sandvig said the Federal Aviation Administration has taken a number of measures to avoid the light pollution issue on newer wind farm projects.
Kolb also asked about the feasibility of wind as an energy source without federal subsidies, saying the industry needs to be taxed more than it already is.
Greg Probst, northwest region director for Enxco said wind energy competes well with natural gas energy. The natural gas market, according to Probst, typically revolves around peaks and valleys in the price of natural gas.
Probst admits that no renewable energy source can be competitive with low priced natural gas, however he also maintains that his company doesn’t pursue energy projects that wouldn’t be profitable. Probst said the company has historicly built and sold their wind projects to other companies, including Pacificorp and is one of the largest third-party providers of operations and maintenance to wind farms in the country.
Sara Flitner, a public relations expert working with the group, said she wants to hear feedback from all the local experts who have experience with the area and have concerns about the project.
With that input, Flitner believes Enxco will build the best wind project they possibly can.
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