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Despite appeal, Wasatch Wind says it’s on schedule for 2012 completion  

Credit:  Dave Robatcek, Douglas Budget, www.douglas-budget.com 14 December 2011 ~~

A Wasatch Wind spokesman says that the company is still on track to begin construction of its Pioneer Wind Parks south of Glenrock next year and to begin generating power by the end of 2012, despite numerous appeals filed challenging their permits.

Appeals of the company’s permits by the Northern Laramie Range Alliance and others at the county, state and federal level have not deterred Wasatch from its plans to complete the project in 2012. The NLRA is opposed to industrial development in or near the mountains of the Laramie Range and has fought Wasatch Wind since the project’s inception.

“It’s not had a significant impact on our plans. It’s one more hurdle to deal with,” Wasatch Wind Director of Marketing and Communications Michelle Stevens said of all the appeals. “They have a pretty high burden of what they need to demonstrate to win the appeals. The courts will not review the decision that the permitting bodies made. They will only review the process. So the appealing parties have to show that Converse County and the state didn’t follow the rules when making their decisions. We feel very confident that we’ll prevail in the appeals process. It’s just time consuming and expensive for everybody, including the State of Wyoming.”

Pioneer Wind Park I and Pioneer Wind Park II, each containing 31 wind turbines, are planned for land in the Boxelder/Mormon Canyon area about 10 miles south of Glenrock. The Wyoming Industrial Siting Division last summer issued Wasatch Wind a conditional permit for construction pending the completion of a two-year wildlife survey and a favorable recommendation from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, among other conditions.

SWCA, the environmental consulting firm retained by the company, recently completed the final leg of its two-year study, the results of which currently are being prepared for review by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“Game and Fish passed wind energy recommendations in 2010 that recommend wind energy developers conduct two years of environmental surveys prior to construction so that you can gather enough information so that you can make the best judgment on where to site your turbines to avoid and minimize impacts to the environment,” Stevens said. “We already had significant information to avoid wildlife impact. We’ve always taken a conservative approach to avoiding wildlife impact, so we think we’re going to be good. There are some wildlife timing restrictions in that area, so we can’t start construction until spring anyway because of those restrictions. So we have plenty of time to process the data and present it back to the Industrial Siting Division to get their final blessing.”

Company representatives also appeared before the Converse County Commissioners last August and shared plans to begin improvements on Mormon Canyon Road in preparation for construction of the wind farm.

“We haven’t started improvements, because we’re still working on the engineering,” Stevens said. “We did do surveys of the road already, so now we’re working on the engineering.”

The company anticipates beginning construction of the turbines as early as the spring of 2012.

“We don’t know the exact date when we will start construction,” Stevens said. “It will be late spring to early summer. The Mormon Canyon Road improvements will probably come first.”

NLRA has filed a challenge to the company’s plans with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the basis of the company’s two 50-megawatt power purchase agreements (PPA) with Rocky Mountain Power (RMP), claiming that those agreements should be ruled invalid.

The NLRA’s petition states that Wasatch’s self-certifications of the PPAs “falsely present as two ‘qualifying small power production facilities’ what is, in fact, one larger, non-qualifying facility. Based on these ‘self-certifications,’ Wasatch induced Rocky Mountain Power, the local power utility, to enter two power purchase agreements giving it preferential access to RMP’s transmission queue over other power producers, and establishing pricing terms that may have the effect of increasing costs to RMP and ratepayers. Wasatch’s conduct, therefore, represents a clear example of ‘gaming’ the ‘qualifying facilities’ provisions of federal law.”

NLRA Steering Committee member Ken Lay, who owns property adjacent to the proposed site of the wind farm, said that FERC has not yet acted on NLRA’s petition and that the organization has seen no evidence that Wasatch has complied with the 21 conditions that the Industrial Siting Council attached to its granting of Wasatch’s permit. The most important of these, Lay said, is that Wasatch show that it has the financial capacity to build, operate, maintain, decommission and restore the project, as required by state law.

“It’s hard to see, under the circumstances, how Wasatch can arrange the financing it told ISC it needs to make that showing,” Lay said. “It’s very difficult to say exactly what’s going to happen.”

“We have gotten appeals by the NLRA on several different fronts, but we feel very confident that we will prevail in those appeals,” Stevens said. “We’re on track to move forward.”

Source:  Dave Robatcek, Douglas Budget, www.douglas-budget.com 14 December 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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