One day after energy company ConnectGen hosted a public meeting about the Rail Tie Wind Project, an organization called Albany County for Smart Energy Development hosted its own public meeting in response.
Member Miria White said her organization, which was formed in opposition to the proposed Rail Tie project, isn’t against wind energy per se.
“We are against this particular project because of its chosen location,” she said.
White said she owns a home that would be the second-closest residence to a turbine, should the project be developed with turbines at their current proposed locations.
“That’s how I came to be involved in opposition to this project,” she said.
Unlike other industrial wind farms in Wyoming, she said, which on average have fewer than 10 residential parcels within five miles, the Rail Tie project is within five miles of more than 180 residential parcels.
“This is going to affect the homesteads and living arrangements of so many more families than other wind farms that have been approved in Wyoming,” White said.
The proposed Rail Tie site is located about 15 miles south of Laramie on public and private land on both sides of U.S. Highway 287 near Tie Siding. The northernmost part of the 26,000-acre project reaches a couple miles south of Interstate 80.
The 500-megawatt project proposes 120 V150-4.2 turbines manufactured by Vestas Wind Systems, which are 590.5 feet tall to the tip of the blade. The project would also include access roads, collection lines, a management facility, two substations, an interconnection switchyard and three meteorological towers
ConnectGen is preparing applications for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Industrial Siting Division and Albany County, which it plans to submit this spring. The Western Area Power Administration, which owns the transmission line that runs through the southern part of the project area, is preparing a draft environmental impact statement for federal permitting.
Project manager Amanda MacDonald said Wednesday that ConnectGen is planning to have all permitting finished by the end of the year so construction can begin in early 2022.
Paul Montoya, another outspoken opponent of the project and a nearby landowner, presented visual images created with the help of Google Earth to simulate what the finished project would look like relative to landmarks such as the Ames Monument, which sits along Interstate 80.
He presented them in contrast to similar images created by ConnectGen and displayed at the first public meeting. Both groups said their visual simulations will be available for viewing on their respective websites.
“It’s a little more dramatic when you look at the size difference between Ames Monument and the size of the turbines,” he said.
Nick Oceanak, an outfitter and nearby resident, said the wind farm would drive away the area’s big game.
“It’s not the right area,” he said. “The only way to protect wildlife is to not do the project in this area.”
Landowner Jennifer Kirchhoefer argued that construction would be hugely disruptive for local residents, most wages would benefit out-of-state workers and the two-dozen permanent jobs aren’t worth it.
“Twenty-three permanent jobs is very minimal, especially for a commitment of 26,000 acres and 35 years,” she said. “That’s exorbitant.”
She said Albany County would be turning an attractive area for rural living into an industrial development.
“If we sell of our most valuable asset, then Laramie becomes a poor investment,” she said.
Albany County for Smart Energy Development is leading another public meeting at 6 p.m., Feb. 24, both online and at Rock Laramie Church, 402 Corthell Rd. Go to acsed.org for more information or to sign a petition asking for stricter county regulations.
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