EVANSTON – The Uinta County commissioners deliberated Tuesday over the Invenergy application for a new wind energy facility in Uinta County.
During the public hearing, Invenergy Senior Business Development Manager Krista Mann, from Littleton, Colorado, gave a presentation.
“We have been working on this project for close to a year now,” Mann said.
Invenergy has had several meetings in Uinta County this year.
The wind energy facility will be located roughly in the Whitney Canyon or Ryckman Creek area. The project will comprise approximately 55-70 wind turbines and will be a 120 megawatt facility (which provides power for a population of roughly 40,000).
Mann said Invenergy has signed leases with landowners to use the property for the next 25 years and is doing environmental surveys and collecting archeological data.
“We will be taking into account all that information to design the most robust, safe, efficient wind project that we can,” Mann said.
When Mann discussed the measures Invenergy is implementing to survey and analyze the building site for archeological obstacles, commission chair Craig Welling asked what their actual obligation is to do this sort of thing on private property.
“This is just a form of responsible development,” Mann said, “making sure we don’t disturb anything.”
Commissioner Eric South asked what might happen if the project is not worth rebuilding in 25 years. Mann said the lease agreements with the landowners, as well as the requirements of the state, oblige Invenergy to remove all facilities, reclaim the soil, regrade and reseed appropriately if the project is not renewed.
She discussed how this project will benefit Uinta County, starting with the construction phase, which lasts 6-12 months.
“There’s a flurry of economic activity that happens at that time,” Mann said.
Welling was especially concerned about whether Invenergy has a commitment to using local contractors.
Mann said the language is vague in the application, but she said Invenergy encourages the main contractor to hire from local contractors wherever possible. She said she has kept business cards and emails she has received from local contractors and will pass those recommendations on to the main contractor.
Three Uinta County citizens spoke in favor of the project.
“We’re kind of hurting for money, and this will help,” Evanston resident Cloey Wall said.
Woodruff landowner Charles Rex said about 18-20 landowners are involved in the project, which is entirely on private lands.
“On behalf of the landowners, we’re all in favor of this project,” he said.
Kern River Gas employee Jeff Green also spoke in favor of the project, although he said there is 20-inch gas pipeline that runs through the project area. Mann said they are aware of the Kern River Gas presence in the area but will procure a full map of the area as well as hire a surveyor.
“We have a map of every pipeline and everything else clear back into the ‘70s, even some that they’re not even using anymore,” Wall added.
The commissioners asked about Invenergy’s philosophy on flipping projects, to which Mann said this is a possibility but not Invenergy’s typical business practice. Invenergy currently has a portfolio of approximately 13,000 megawatts in wind, solar, natural gas and energy storage projects throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Mann added that tax payments will benefit the county. There is Wyoming production tax of $1 per megawatt hour and sales tax, which is based on cost of materials. Sixty percent of the production tax will go to the local community and 40 percent to the state.
Mann estimated that, between production and sales tax, Uinta County will receive between $11-14 million in the next 25 years.
The county commissioners expressed some concerns about the sales tax, as the language in the application does not clearly indicate that Invenergy will store or first use products in Uinta County.
County planner Kent Williams said sales tax is sourced to the county in which the products are first used, and first use also includes storage.
“Uinta County wants to collect the tax in Uinta County,” South said, “because the project is here, and we want the money to be here where it should be and where we need the money.”
“We know that this kind of ‘oops’ has happened in the state of Wyoming before,” Welling said, referencing a project where a pipeline was stored three miles off the Wyoming border. “We want to be very clear, very direct in our expectations of it.”
He also noted that Mann did not reference sales tax as revenue for Uinta County in her written presentation, but they have been very thorough otherwise. Mann said that, if the sales tax is not present in the presentation, it was her oversight.
Williams said Invenergy has submitted one of the most complete applications he has seen.
“They have answered every concern, they have answered every question … they’ve tried their very best to be a benefit to our community,” Williams said.
The commissioners approved the application with the condition that language will be added to the application to the effect that Invenergy will make every effort to ensure sales tax is sourced to Uinta County.
Invenergy intends to begin construction on the project or at least make some of the major equipment purchases by the end of the year.
The commissioners approved scholarship awards to Uinta County students. Because there were no Lyman High School applicants, the Lyman scholarship was transferred to Evanston High School. The Mountain View High School scholarship was awarded to Dusty Iorg with Kayle Rippetoe as alternate, and the EHS scholarships were awarded to Bailey Cornia and Brady Olson with Espiranza Alvarez and Emily Davis as alternates. Scholarship recipients must attend college in Wyoming in order to receive the scholarships.
The commissioners appointed Lisa Todd and Russell Shawn Todd (both veterans) and Diane Huling to the Veterans Board
The commission also approved Resolution 16-14 to support Uinta County’s application to become a Certified Work Ready Community and approved a Notice to Proceed for Maxfield Construction to build a new salt and sand shed. Public Works Director Clay Baird said a new shed is needed because the old one is too small, is failing and does not meet DEQ standards.
Jeff Green asked the commissioners if the county might begin doing regular snow removal on Spotted Hawk Road. Welling said the Road and Bridge West foreman needs to have input before the commissioners can make a decision.
The commissioners learned that the county can transfer the $130,434.12, which they formerly decided to return to the state, to another qualifying project. The commissioners will transfer these funds to the Bridger Valley Transfer Station.
They approved a quarterly report and reimbursement of $2,417.54 from Volunteers of America and the purchase and installment of a new storage monitoring tank from Petroleum Equipment Company. The new system will replace an old system which no longer satisfies DEQ requirements and cannot be repaired, as the system is too old to be able to locate parts. The new system will cost $6,145.60.
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