Wind power, it’s “all the talk” over parts of Wyoming. Like all energy movements — some encourage it, some scorn it and others are waiting in the sidelines to see what happens.
As with past energy booms in Wyoming, some ranchers will capitalize on wind power development. Others will be hurt by it. In some areas, it will pit neighbor against neighbor, depending upon their views and their willingness to work together.
We can all talk about the need for energy independence and the large sums of money going to countries that would like to see us destroyed, but it’s going to take real change to solve that problem. By developing green energy we can lessen the carbon footprint we are leaving with fossil fuels, perhaps easing global warming — that is, if you call one degree warmer in 30 years “warming.” I couldn’t sense much “warming” last November, December, or this last spring, could you? In the end, it is all about money. As always, that is what drives our capitalistic country.
Wind power is not going to happen overnight, nor is any other green power development in this state. For the time being we are going to continue to rely upon coal, oil and gas. As we all know, it is going to take large transmission lines to move the electricity out of the state and this too will take some time. Place those issues in a bucket and throw in NEPA on the public lands and the sage grouse issue and you have a pretty full bucket. Even with the Obama administration and others pushing the movement forward, it all will take some time. Unlike the past coalbed methane gas play, this wind energy play is going to take big money, and I mean big money. This play is for the big boys only. We have already seen some consolidation in southeast Wyoming where the wind power movement is the largest.
As always in an energy boom, speculation is part of the mix and the wind power movement is no different. Given the cost of wind power development, however, speculators will soon be weeded out. Another energy boom constant — a good experienced lawyer is well worth the money as this is a complicated legal matter. There are a lot of unknowns for landowners to deal with. We give a big “hats off” to the landowners in the southeastern part of the state for forming associations to negotiate with the wind companies. These landowners, through the guidance of NRCS RC&D Coordinator Grant Stumbough and their attorneys, have done a marvelous job of negotiating contracts. The associations more recently banded together to make their goals of wind power even stronger through a unified group. There is strength in numbers.
Thus far, the state has done a good job in managing wind power. The one exception may be state lands, a scenario through which they may not have been the best neighbors to the landowners who lease the trust lands for grazing. Some of the sideboards in which they operate, given their responsibility for the state’s trust lands, have made certain aspects of their decisions difficult. While we’ve heard complaints about the manner in which development on state lands has been handled, the forum held last week in Casper was a good move. We applaud their efforts and hope they prove successful.
As with all energy developments, Wyoming will live through it. Some will fare better than others. All we ask is that it’s done right.