GREEN RIVER – The Sweetwater County Commission approved a temporary halt to applications for commercial wind farms, pending changes in county rules and public meetings. The county has not met state standards for wind farm zoning, and Commission Chairman Wally Johnson said that the county is not ready for any new wind farm projects.
Johnson also questioned whether he was willing to sacrifice the county’s “wide-open spaces” to the turbines, but said he is not “categorically against” wind energy.
Commissioner Reid West said the halt would likely last nine months to give time for the county to meet state standards and hold public meetings to discuss wind energy development and siting.
Developers have planned three wind energy projects in the county, but one is on hold and another under discussion.
Only the Quaking Aspen Wind Energy Project, slated to eventually total 100 turbines with a production capacity of 250 megawatts, is still actively under development by EnXco Development Corp. through subsidiary Evergreen Wind Power Partners.
But Nate Sandvig, site developer for enXco, said the moratorium won’t get in the way of the Quaking Aspen project, which is just beginning the federal environmental review process.
“We’re definitely supportive of the moratorium,” he said. “It allows the county to put in place some regulations that put in place regulatory certainty, some predictability, while at the same time the county can preserve what’s important for them.”
Wasatch Wind Development’s 150-turbine, 270 megawatt Sweeney Ranch project is on hold, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Reid said Teton Wind LLC, the developer of the 240-turbine, 360-megawatt White Mountain project, is considering changes to shrink the size of the project, which is considered a fast-track priority by the BLM.
Sweetwater County residents have mixed feelings about the wind farms, West said. And those who support the wind energy projects have a variety of opinions of where those turbines should go.
Some additional time will give the public a chance to discuss development in the county, he said, even as the county revamps its rules to meet state standards for wind energy development.
“So we’ve got to get in line with that,” he said. “As part of that process, there’s going to be more discussion about where the public thinks the appropriate place for those turbines are.”
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