Tucked against the foothills west of Tie Siding is a small cabin, under construction for the last seven years, representing the dreams and life savings of Carson and Loretta Aanenson.
Better known around Laramie as Ace, Aanenson and his wife have been working on the project since 2014.
“We come up and work on it whenever we get a few dollars,” he said.
Last weekend, they laid tile on the bathroom floor. They’ll heat the 24-by-32-foot structure with a single wood stove and power it with small solar and wind installations. A natural spring forms a small pool a stone’s throw away.
Aanenson currently operates Laramie Towing and Recycling, and used to run AAA Recycling and Salvage. He welded old highway guardrails together to form the stove pipe. More welded guardrails sit atop concrete pylons forming the cabin’s base.
“I’ve been a welder my whole life,” he said. “It will never rot out.”
He takes great pride in the fact that he and Loretta have turned every screw and cut every piece of lumber.
“We make a really good team, working together,” he said.
In the future, they plan to live there full-time. He’ll write a book, build a small pond, install a greenhouse. Hopefully kids and grandkids will build their own homes someday.
The cabin sits on 70 acres near Boulder Ridge Road overlooking open range to the east and south. Far off in the distance, the Ault-Craig transmission line lumbers across the horizon, a feature that makes possible the proposed Rail Tie Wind Project. The 26,000-acre project area runs right up to the other side the road.
Aanenson may have the rest of his life planned out, but he didn’t plan on wind development in his front yard.
“One of the plans was not walking outside with a cup of coffee and looking at 120 turbines,” he said.
Aanenson is among a group of neighbors opposing the proposed project, set to be located on public and private land on both sides of U.S. Highway 287. The proposal calls for 4.2-megawatt turbines that are almost 600 feet tall at the tip of the blade.
According to Albany County’s current regulations, towers have to be set back a distance of at least 5.5 times their height from residential dwellings and platted subdivisions and 1.1 times their height from adjacent property lines. That means a turbine could be as close as 3,247 feet to the Aanenson house and 650 feet from their property line.
Some who oppose the project have argued that the area would be more useful to the county if it were prioritized for “executive housing,” in order to attract high-achieving professionals to Laramie. However, Aanenson said those aren’t the type of people who own residential parcels in the area right now.
“Loretta and I aren’t rich, and we do not live in a castle,” he said.
After working in California for a few years, Aanenson decided he’d rather live in Laramie, where he moved 40 years ago. It had a university and a bowling alley, and he could drive across town in seven minutes.
“I moved here because of the small-town atmosphere. I’m as happy as a little country frog,” he said.
In his eyes, the project will generate a lot of money for its investors and a little money for the county, but at what cost?
And whatever you do, don’t call it a wind farm; farms have animals and not giant machines.
“Once this goes in, it’s here forever,” he said. “It won’t go away in my lifetime.”
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