Planners for a large wind farm in Albany County, located along the border with Laramie County near Vedauwoo, suffered a setback last week when the State Board of Land Commissioners refused to allow state lands to be used for the project.
Houston-based ConnectGen wanted to lease 4800 acres of state land in a checkerboard pattern for its 500 megawatt Rail Tie project. The entire project would cover 26,000 acres, and include between 84 and 151 wind turbines, depending on their size. The state lands made up about 20% of that.
“While we’re disappointed with the state decision, we’re still moving forward with the project, with the portions that are on private land,” said Amanda MacDonald, ConnectGen project manager.
Paul Montoya owns the Vista de Luna Bed and Breakfast near the Ames Monument. He has led the opposition to the project, including gathering hundreds of signatures on a petition asking the Albany County Commissioners to review and update the county’s wind regulations.
“From our standpoint what it does is it demonstrates to everyone, especially the county, that this may not be the proper place for this project. The petition drive – I think that affected the decision of the governor and the rest of the state land board in their decision that it wasn’t a proper place,” Montoya said.
The State Board of Land Commissioners is made up of the Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Treasurer, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction. ConnectGen said the state of Wyoming would receive $480,000 per year from the lease of the state lands, and a total of $45 million in taxes over the project’s 35-year lifespan. Albany County would receive $133.5 million over the same time period.
The State Board of Land Commissioners rejected the leasing proposal, but not the idea of the project. “Something that the governor and other board members specifically emphasized was that their decision on this lease was neither an endorsement or a disapproval of the Rail Tie project as a whole,” MacDonald said.
Despite the setback, MacDonald said the project was moving forward. It still has to receive federal, state, and local permits. MacDonald said the project could start construction in 2022.
“Our private landowners are eager about moving the project forward. This is an opportunity for them to diversify their income,” she added.
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