A new wind project proposed for Albany County near Veduawoo has run into strong headwinds from local residents. Houston-based ConnectGen wants to put wind turbines on 26,000 acres of private and state land stretching from near the Ames Monument and Vedauwoo to an area west and south of Tie Siding.
The company says the project will generate 504 megawatts of wind power. Amanda MacDonald, ConnectGen’s project manager, said the exact number of wind turbines has not been determined.
“We haven’t selected the turbine type that we’ll use yet. Looking at all of the models we’re considering, they are between 500 feet, which is the same size as the turbines that just went up at the Roundhouse project, or potentially as tall as 675 feet,” she said.
The larger turbines generate 6 MW each. Depending on the size chosen, the company will install between 84 and 151 turbines. The taller turbines generate more electricity, so fewer will be needed.
The numbers and size of the turbines upset Paul Montoya. Montoya and his wife Lynn own the Vista de Luna Bed and Breakfast near the Ames Monument. Montoya created a website, www.ProtectAmesMonument.org, and has been rallying neighbors to fight the project.
Montoya said 54 people attended a protest in front of the Albany County Courthouse in July. He is also pushing a petition through the website, calling on the Albany County Commissioners to review the regulations concerning wind energy, especially how they relate to setbacks.
Setbacks determine the distance between a project and property lines, residences, roads, and other locations. MacDonald says the current regulations require wind turbines to be built at least 5.5 times their height away from residences, measured from the tip of the blade to the ground.
Montoya said that’s not enough. “The regulations that were put in place by Albany County are well over 10 years old and really haven’t kept up with the current technologies in wind energy. What we’re really asking is that the regulations be looked at from a number of standpoints, but one of the primary ones are setbacks, not only from property lines rather than the residence but also setbacks from national historic monuments, and from national parks and state parks,” Montoya added.
ConnectGen’s Amanda MacDonald disagrees. “The setbacks used in Albany County are more or less identical to those used in Carbon County, Laramie County and are very much the norm for setbacks,” she said.
She added that the real goal was to stop the project completely. “The specific setbacks that have been put forth by this group of landowners that Mr. Montoya is a part of would effectively put setbacks over the entire project area. We would not be able to install a single turbine anywhere within the 26,000 acres project area,” MacDonald said.
ConnectGen’s website points to a significant economic impact. The company will spend more than $500 million building the project. 113 construction jobs will be created with $35.8 million in one-time earnings. Once the project is completed, it will have 23 long-term jobs with $1.6 million in annual earnings.
“Absolutely it’s a good project for Albany County,” said Albany County Commissioner Terri Jones. “As a commissioner, I’m most interested in what our bottom line is, the physical bottom line,” she added.
As of last week, Montoya had gathered 468 signatures on his petition calling for the Albany County Commissioners to review and amend the existing wind regulations, and he plans to call a press conference the day before the next Albany County Commissioner meeting.
The Albany County Planning and Building Department is looking into the current regulations, and will have a recommendation for the commissioners at their meeting on September 15.
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