A proposed 46-turbine wind farm near Glenrock now faces a race against the clock, as the project’s developer seeks to secure financing and finalize a utility contract before its state permit expires early next year.
Wasatch Wind of Park City, Utah, successfully fought off a series of legal challenges from a group of landowners seeking to block what is now planned to be an 80-megawatt wind farm, winning cases before the Wyoming Supreme Court last year and the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals last month. But the company has faced other hurdles in breaking ground on a project it first announced in 2010.
Wasatch saw its financial partner, Edison Mission Energy, file for bankruptcy last year. The Wyoming Industrial Siting Council subsequently gave the company until May 2014 to secure a financial partner and until July of that year to break ground. Wasatch’s troubles were compounded further when its power purchase deal with utility Rocky Mountain Power expired.
Renegotiating an agreement has proven difficult.
Developer and utility are currently fighting over the terms of contract before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
In a petition to FERC, Wasatch argued that Rocky Mountain Power has insisted on a curtailment provision in the deal, which would enable the utility to disconnect the wind farm from the electric grid in some instances. Such a provision violates the federal law governing small-scale renewable power projects, Wasatch said. Rocky Mountain power is essentially hoping to “run out the clock” on negotiations, preventing Wasatch from securing financing before the state’s May deadline, the company argued.
Christine Mikell, Wasatch president, said the company is moving forward with the project.
“Our permit says we must have financial assurance by May 18, and start construction by July 18,” Mikell said. “Our plan is to meet those conditions.”
Rocky Mountain Power, through its parent company PacifiCorp, countered that it had never insisted on a curtailment clause. The utility said it proposed such a provision, Wasatch rejected it and the companies were in the midst of further negotiations when the wind developer filed its petition with FERC.
The two companies currently do not have a contract, said David Eskelsen, a spokesman for the utility.
Rocky Mountain Power is meeting its obligation to negotiate with Wasatch, he said, as is required by federal law.
The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 requires utilities to accept electricity from renewable power producers who generate 80 megawatts of electricity or less, provided that the costs of accepting that power do not lead to a rate increase for consumers.
The Northern Laramie Range Alliance, a group of landowners that has filed a series of suits seeking to block the project, filed its own brief with FERC, supporting Rocky Mountain Power’s request to have the Wasatch petition dismissed.
”We share Rocky Mountain Power’s view that if FERC were to enter this order it would not leave ratepayers indifferent,” said Ken Lay, an attorney with NLRA. The project would cause rates to increase, he argued.
The Pioneer Wind Park, as the wind farm is officially known, was initially proposed as two separate 50-megawatt developments one mile apart. It called on building 62 windmills. Wasatch has since revised the plan, which now calls for building 46 wind turbines on one site.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding