September 21, 2013

Infrastructure needed before wind turbines

By Kate Snyder | Posted: Saturday, September 21, 2013 |

Identifying specific locations for wind turbines in the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm project is a three-stop process: photograph the site, identify any environmental factors that might prevent a turbine placement and propose an alternative location if needed.

Dave Richardson, project manager for Mortenson Construction, basically used a GPS to place stakes in the ground to mark future turbine locations, but he also looked for rare vegetation or soil erosion that might be disrupted by the turbines.

“The turbines are one component (of the process),” he said.

What needs to happen first, however, is the infrastructure of the site, said Kara Choquette, director of Communications for Power Company of Wyoming, the company behind the project.

Without roads and a rail facility to transport parts and labor, there can be no wind farm, Choquette said.

Meetings to discuss this phase of the project are scheduled for 4-7 p.m. on Sept. 23 at the Platte Valley Community Center, 210 W. Elm Ave., Saratoga; and Sept. 24 at the Depot, 400 W. Front Street, Rawlins.

The second phase of the planning and scoping period involves identifying individual turbine locations, which is what Richardson has been working on all summer.

The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision amended the Rawlins Resource Management Plan to allow for wind development, but did not identify individual turbine locations, according to a press release from the Bureau of Land Management. So environmental assessments need to be completed to analyze the best number and layout of the wind turbines.

Layout will take into account migratory bird and eagle avoidance and minimization, the release stated.

Towers already implemented in the Chokecherry site have been measuring wind speed, direction and temperature for years, said Jason Theesfeld, site coordinator for the PCW.

With data collected from those towers, locations for wind turbines will be able to be identified, he said.

He said the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre sites are some of the best wind resources in Wyoming.

“When it’s windy, it never stops blowing,” Theesfeld said.

The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm project consists of two wind farm sites encompassing 1,000 turbines on more than 227,638 acres of mixed public and private land located about 10 miles south of Rawlins, Wyo., in Carbon County. The wind turbine generators are slated to take up 1.5 acres each.

Each wind turbine would generate between 1.5 to 3 megawatts of electricity, with a total capacity of 2,000 to 3,000 MW, which is enough energy to power nearly one million homes.

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