RAWLINS – The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm project has dominated the headlines for more than half a decade, and recent events show at least five more years of waiting is on the docket for the project.
During Tuesday’s regular meeting, Carbon County Commissioners approved a five-year delay to the commencement date. The wind farm is projected to produce 3,000 megawatts once completed.
Carbon County Planning and Zoning Department head Sid Fox stated his staff found no significant issues with the delay. Fox further stated the request had been brought before the county’s Planning and Zoning commission, who also recommended approval of PCW’s delay request.
This is the first delay for the commencement of operation, though this is the third delay requested by the Power Company of Wyoming related to the project.
The first two delays were granted to extend the requirement to begin construction, which occurred in 2014 and 2015.
Construction began in 2016, with more than 80 miles of road in the construction process and 80 turbine pads in various stages of completion as of Tuesday’s meeting. According to PCW Director of Engineering and Construction Ryan Jacobson, the land chosen for the wind farm had little infrastructure development prior to their involvement, forcing extensive construction work simply to prepare the area for heavy industrial traffic.
“There is no significant infrastructure on the project side, so we’ve been building the main access haul road and arterial roads to the various sites to open up construction,” said Jacobson.
Along with building roads and turbine pads, Jacobson stated an on-site gravel quarry has been built to fill their needs without long travel times.
Jacobson stated construction on the wind farm runs year-rround, rather than the summer-dominated schedule of most major construction projects. Jacobson further stated construction has run continuously since the first ground was broken in September 2016.
Jacobson clarified their work on Bureau of Land Management land does have required stopping points during the spring, but as the project runs through the checkerboard pattern, work is always underway somewhere in the project’s 2,000 acre sprawl.
To man construction, the project currently employs 100 year-round workers.
“So far, we have invested over $50 million in the construction program, so we have made a very serious investment in this project and we will continue to do so,” said Jacobson.
Despite the hum of construction continuously serenating the hills south of Rawlins, the project stands nowhere near ready to meet the original start-up date of this September.
No turbines have been installed and none will be available for installation for another three years. According to Jacobson, 2022 is being projected as the year when PCW would begin raising wind turbines.
Jacobson stated the reason for the turbine’s delay is the project is waiting for transmission lines to be available to carry their power to consumers.
While 2024 is the projected date for the wind farm to start generating electricity, final completion is set to take a further two years, according to Jacobson.
The schedule and delay requests were the same as presented to the Industrial Siting Council earlier in the year.
Should the current dates hold, the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm project will have spanned more than a decade without including the enormous burden of planning the project.
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