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Wind farm breezes past Cheyenne city council

CHEYENNE – A lease agreement for a proposed $750 million, 150-turbine wind farm on the city of Cheyenne’s Belvoir Ranch passed a city council vote yesterday.

The agreement stipulates an increased lease as time passes, cutting the company a break during the planning phase. The 12,000 acre lease will cost the leaser $300,000 by year 10. But the city has the option of cancelling the lease if no substantial permitting progress can be shown.

The land, originally purchased in 2003 as a potential landfill site, has largely been dormant since its purchase, a subject of local consternation, especially among those that would like to use the taxpayer-purchased land for recreation.

But according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, the new wind farm could draw in at least $72 million of royalties for the city over its 30-year lifespan if the power is piped over the border to Colorado. The number could be significantly higher if the electricity is sold to California. Both states have similar mandates in place to have about a third of their electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.

The 300-megawatt wind farm will be constructed by a Jackson-based company that plans to wait to see where up-in-the-air wind credits fall before giving the go-ahead on the construction phase. If all goes as planned, the turbines could be up and running by 2016.

After the construction phase, the wind farm would only employ about 15 people permanently, or one person for every 10 turbines.

Only 150 miles up the interstate, another wind project is blowing across the plains. The proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Farm would have as many as 1,000 turbines that could power as many as 1 million homes, according to the Department of the Interior. The project would be built on a combination of private, state and federal land in Carbon County.