Look to the future: Energy consultant speaks to renewable, non-renewable partnership
Douglas – After attending vet school and working for a veterinary pharmaceutical business for four years, energy consultant Vic Garber, who now lives south of Douglas, changed gears and went to work for Peabody Coal Company.
“They were looking for a land man, and I had nothing to lose, so I went and talked with them,” says Garber, who grew up on a ranch in Montana with five siblings. “I ended up being in charge of everything in the western United States except for Missouri and Oklahoma.”
When the man who hired Vic retired, he took his position in 1977.
“The coal was in North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and a little bit of Utah. I bought lots of ranches and oversaw 178 sections of surface for them, in addition to handling all the leasing,” says Vic, who was with the company for 26 and a half years.
“The scariest part of it when I was starting out was having to deal with attorneys. I’d always been brought up to watch out for them,” he notes. “I came to find out that most are very specialized, and there are certainly some to watch out for, but I work with attorneys every day now.”
Vic and his wife Jane had already moved to Douglas before he retired in 2003, and now he is the executive officer of four energy companies, in addition to running BJ Energy and Land, Inc., which has two principle clients – Bill Barret Corporation and Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy.
“I feel really blessed in that I’ve had the opportunity of working for three diverse energy companies that are what I consider to be the best of the best,” says Vic, who handles the acquisition for Pathfinder’s wind farm area from south of Chugwater to Wheatland on both sides of Interstate 25.
Speaking of the future of energy development in Converse County, Vic says, “There was an incredible push to develop the Niobrara shale in southeast Wyoming, and that’s slowed. The Niobrara shale has always been a tough one to conquer – it doesn’t like to give up its oil easily. A lot of people thought they could drill and frac the shale, and I think they will succeed with time.”
As a result of the difficulty in southeast Wyoming, Vic says the interest has moved to do that same thing in the Central Powder.
“Yes, the Niobrara is here, but there are also several other formations with a higher level of success in drilling and fracking, and in getting production,” he states. “The energy development is just really starting to come alive.”
The development creates immense challenges for communities, and Vic says that’s the reason Pathfinder Wind has been aggressive in explaining to Wyoming legislators that they’re a company that’s willing to help handle impacts on the front end.
“Everything that’s funded by county is impacted in those small communities,” he says. “It’s been tough for some of our legislators to understand that. There was a sales tax exemption for wind, and Carbon County got a sour taste early on, much to the dismay of everybody, because the story has it that they took in only $3,200 in taxes out of a big project, because nothing was accounted for on the front end.”
“Pathfinder recognizes what needs to be done to achieve that development without that kind of impact to these people,” he notes.
Vic says he thinks there tends to be blinders on the part of other established industry toward wind development.
“If we can bring the non-renewable industry companies to understand what a marriage between what non-renewable and renewable can do, it’s incredible,” he says. “There’s not enough capacity out of Wyoming to handle all our gas, and we’re always fighting that in oil and gas industry. But if the wind development comes about the way it’s being planned, the Zephyr transmission line will be one of the largest integrated energy projects in world history, and it will become Wyoming’s biggest gas user. If that’s not something to pay attention to, I don’t know what is for the oil and gas industry, because it makes for a great possibility to market gas without the transportation cost.”
Of using natural gas as a load follow to wind, Vic says, “There are many of us who think the wind never quits blowing in Wyoming, but there are days when it’s less. Load follow is a very crucial part of what we need. We have that opportunity, and Wyoming has some of the best wind in the United States, and between it and oil and gas, we’ve got it, so let’s flaunt it.”
“You’ll see a lot of gasification in the future,” says Vic. “I think we’re just starting to get a focus on it, even thought they talked about gasification back in the ‘70s. It’s like wine – it’s got to come in its own time, and the economics have got to work out.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.