The company developing what could be the country’s largest wind farm will wait at least another month to file a state application.
Power Company of Wyoming, developer of the 1,000-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project proposed south of Rawlins, was set to file an application with the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council in late January. The company held its application because of concerns over now-dead legislation which could have affected construction on the project.
The bill in question, Senate File 49, would have required companies with large enough projects to spend at least 25 percent of the anticipated cost in the first two years after approval. Company spokeswoman Kara Choquette said the project – estimated to cost $5 billion – wouldn’t have complied with the legislation.
“The way that a wind project is, the big costs come in years three, four and five,” she said. “We wouldn’t be spending $1.25 billion in the first two years. Why start a process when we were unlikely to be in compliance?”
The bill wasn’t advanced to either legislative floor by committee.
Now that the measure appears to be dead, the company plans to meet with the council in March and determine the best time to file its application. It’s among the last in a series of approvals needed for the project, which could generate between 2,000 and 3,000 megawatts of wind power. The company would then announce a new application timetable.
If the project receives the permits and approvals to go forward, it would quickly become the backbone of Wyoming’s emerging but sputtering wind energy industry. Developers statewide have lately faced issues both political and logistical in their efforts to farm and export Wyoming wind, a top-notch resource.
Chief among the hurdles facing Wyoming wind developers is a lack of transmission lines to carry the state’s abundant resource to markets hungry for renewable energy. At least three major transmission line projects which could address the issue remain up in the air, including one – TransWest Express– owned by Power Company of Wyoming’s parent company, Denver-based Anschutz Corp.
TransWest would carry about 3,000 megawatts of power from Rawlins to just south of Las Vegas. The project has been under federal study since 2011, and a draft of the federal Bureau of Land Management’s environmental impact statement is expected this spring.
Meanwhile, the wind project has already received approvals from Carbon County and the federal government. The Carbon County Board of Commissioners approved a conditional use permit in October – two months after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the project’s approval and listing as one of the Obama administration’s priority renewable energy projects.
Choquette said that the company remains determined to begin construction on the massive wind farm, targeting a possible 2014 groundbreaking. She estimated the company has spent about $25 million on project development so far, but added that Wyoming is an ideal place for such a project.
“When we look at the fundamentals of what we have here, the great wind in Wyoming and the wonderful timing of Wyoming wind as it helps meet the needs for renewable energy in California,” she said, “we think the project fundamentals are outstanding.”
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