Central Wyo properties base for future wind energy business
Casper — Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy LLC’s (PRWE) purchase of Central Wyoming’s Pathfinder Ranch and surrounding ranches has many asking what the company has in mind for the ranches’ future.
Jeff Meyer, the company’s Managing Partner, says PRWE is operating from its 250,000-acre base property and building partnerships across the state to create a wind energy business. He’s quick to point out that the project has a fresh approach, one that builds community partnerships and allows locals to benefit from the growth around them.
“As opposed to just leasing land, we wanted to become a citizen,” says Meyer, who along with his wife, is living at the Pathfinder Ranch this summer. “We felt we wanted to have a permanence in the community. That’s why we purchased the ranches.” PWRE’s search for Wyoming ranches dates back about three years.
Over the course of an hour-long interview Meyer never mentions megawatts, transmission, towers or the recent turbulence among potential Wyoming wind energy developers. He does say he has a project ready goal of 2014, but for the time being his energy is focused on grassroots support for the project. He says it’s his goal to ensure the project proves beneficial to area communities.
Beyond the base ranches PRWE has purchased, the company has leased others in the surrounding area. Meyer says they see no boundaries to their potential “project area” and he continues to visit with interested landowners. Already encompassing far more acres than could, or would, ever be developed, the company has been mapping and “setting aside” those areas they don’t believe are appropriate for development. Meyer sums the approach up as “avoidance,” or not pursuing development in areas with the potential for conflict.
Showing a series of maps, he says the company has omitted several areas from the possibility of future development. In many cases the land they’re choosing to avoid is property they own. One such example is the Oregon Trail that passes through their ranch. Building upon that, wildlife corridors, cultural areas and prime recreation areas have also been omitted.
PRWE has been working with the Wyoming Game and Fish to develop Hunter Management Areas and to improve public access at Pathfinder Reservoir. The company owns land near Miracle Mile and part of Fremont Canyon. When the time is right the remaining areas, where development is deemed appropriate, will be analyzed for optimum tower placement.
“We’re not a project company,” says Meyer. “Most every wind developer has a project. We are not a project developer. We are a wind business. We develop wind where wind should be developed as opposed to coming up with a project.”
Meyer says, “Our business is designed to drive long term benefits to Wyoming – jobs for manufacturing, construction, management and research; improved recreational opportunities; and targeted environmental and wildlife improvements. It’s a longterm process.”
He adds, “We don’t have a project boundary. Every ranch has something to add to our project.” Using an approach of “a rising tide floats all boats,” Meyer says PWRE is positioned to help preserve Wyoming’s open spaces. “Maybe you can afford to hold onto your ranch if you’re getting revenues from wind instead of just getting money from cattle.” Partnerships, he says, exist for those who have prime wind and for those who have other amenities to offer, such as wildlife habitat or scenic areas.
Sage grouse factor into that as Meyer says they could prove to be the most profitable thing a ranch ever preserves and protects. “We’d like our partner ranches raising sage grouse,” he explains underscoring a natural approach through sound management, not farm-raised birds.
PWRE has a goal of increasing the grouse population on its core ranches and is factoring the bird into its long-term plans. That’s not a new discussion, but something Meyer says PWRE anticipated upon their arrival in the state. “Let’s say all you have is sage grouse, and you don’t have any wind, there still may be an opportunity for you to participate in our project. We would designate a special management area for your ranch.”
Given the lagging infrastructure to carry Wyoming produced power to market, Meyer says, “There’s more than enough time for Wyoming wind development to be planned right. Let’s figure out together where wind will work the best.”
“We believe ranchers will be the backbone of these large wind projects. Wyoming’s a vast resource of wind, but it’s not a sustainable model to think you can just come in here and develop wind and ship it out of state,” says Meyer. “We see a sustainable business model by having everybody engaged in the discussion that our country is going to do wind. The question then becomes, where are we going to do it.”
Jeff Meyer can be reached at email@example.com. Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.