Houston firm ConnectGen’s proposed Rail Tie Wind Project (hereafter RTWP) would consume 26,000 acres of private and state land south of Laramie for 35 years. To my knowledge, the following points have yet to be raised:
1) Eagle habitat intrusion: RTWP interrupts golden and bald eagle summer and year-round distribution areas, BLM’s West-Wide Mapping Project indicates.
2) Tanking tourism: Suggesting RTWP won’t damage tourism, ConnectGen uses Ocean City, New Jersey, as evidence—apparently oblivious that no one visits Ocean City for expansive views of unspoiled nature. The comparison is absurd.
3) Landfill overflow: Turbine blades cannot be recycled and end up in landfills, a problem in Casper already. Assuming the minimum number of turbines and maximum blade life, RTWP will dump 200 127-foot-long fiberglass blades in Wyoming landfills.
4) Inefficiency: Turbines extract only 59% of the wind’s power. Worse, a 2019 Harvard study found a turbine’s actual energy production is up to 60% lower than its projected energy, and the larger the installation, the lower each turbine’s production.
5) Who pays? Is the incessantly touted potential tax revenue extracted from individuals through increased taxes, power bill fees, and taxpayer-funded government subsidies?
6) Landowner health: In March 2016, a Calhan, Colorado, landowner credited the local wind installation with saving his family farm. A year later, local news reported the side-effects of constant noise and shadow flicker from 100 turbines had driven 10 families away. The energy company insists it followed safety protocols.
7) Company (in)stability? Two-year-old Houston-based ConnectGen has three established projects, seven in development, and a 14.5-year loan from Norddeutsche Landesbank—which reported a quarterly net loss of $79 million on March 27. Even before COVID-19’s global economic impact, more than one wind project has collapsed and abandoned turbines.
Wyoming is unique. Living here every day, we sometimes take this for granted. When a Texas company appears with a pitch that dramatically impacts our ecosystem, we must remember that we have much to protect—and every gain comes with a sacrifice. Behind the debate surrounding the Rail Tie Wind Project is a simple question: What do we value most?
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