CARBON COUNTY – With several power transmission and wind farm projects in the works, Carbon County is closing the wind energy gap between Wyoming and neighboring states, a county commissioner said.
“We were lagging behind because of our transmission corridor,” said John Johnson, a member of the Carbon County Board of County Commissioners. “There just wasn’t a way to get (generated energy) out. But now, with Gateway West, it seems like the wind energy companies are pushing hard to get in there.”
The Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) Gateway West Transmission Line Project began in 2007 and is part of a 1,000-mile power line project stretching from Glenrock to Melba, Idaho. A 190-mile section of the project, running from a substation near Medicine Bow to to a substation near the Fort Bridger Power Plant, is under construction along Interstate 80 and is slated to tie in existing power lines.
“They are still working on it,” Johnson said. “But it could be done by the end of this year.”
Additionally, Power Company of Wyoming’s TransWest Express Transmission Project slogged through the rigorous federal, state and local permitting process to erect a 730-mile high power transmission line, which is slated to serve the Chokecherry Sierra Madre Wind Project south of Rawlins.
“I’m just waiting for an update on that project,” Johnson said. “But with everything that’s going on with the coronavirus, it’s a little hard to guess when we might hear from them.”
The Chokecherry project could erect up to 1,000 wind turbines in two phases, generating about 3,000 megawatts of energy.
RMP, a division of PacifiCorp, is making headway on the TB Flats and Ekola Flats projects, which combined could host 300 wind turbines and produce about 750 megawatts, Johnson said.
A few of RMP’s existing wind farms in Carbon County, such as Foot Creek No. 1, Seven Mile Hill and Seven Mile No. 2, are in the process of being revamped with larger wind turbines.
“That’s kind of a cool project in my mind,” Johnson said. “They’re taking away a lot of the smaller turbines and replacing them with fewer but bigger turbines.”
Wind energy projects in Carbon County are generating about $500,000 in tax revenue a year, he said.
“It’s not insignificant, but it doesn’t quite make up the gap left by the decline in oil and coal,” Johnson explained.
While it’s unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect completion goals, he said he hopes to see Power Company of Wyoming gain ground on its project in 2020 as well as see more companies enter the permitting process.
“Power Company of Wyoming is waiting on TransWest, so it’s just a matter of getting all the pieces together,” Johnson explained. “And, we do have a couple other projects that came to the county for permits, but they hadn’t started any of their other permits yet. I’m hoping they pull all that together and come back soon.”
In the Shirley Basin, a uranium mining project operated by the Pathfinder Mines Corporation, a subsidiary of Ur-Energy, filed permits with the Bureau of Land Management and Carbon County to conduct in-situ mining operations on an existing uranium mining site.
The project area is about 2,700 acres, of which 37 acres is located on BLM lands, and located about 30 miles north of Medicine Bow. BLM is currently conducting a public scoping period regarding Pathfinder’s plan of operations, which members of the public can comment on by sending email to blm_wy_rawlins_WYMail@blm.gov. For more information about the project, visit https://go.usa.gov/xVnrP.
Johnson said he hopes to see uranium mining operations increase in the county, but the current price of uranium could make that difficult.
“Even with efficient as in-situ mining is, they need a way to get their revenue up to the point it’s profitable to pull that uranium out the ground,” Johnson said.
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