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Wind Development

Casper — Several upcoming discussions could shape where and how much wind energy development occurs in the Cowboy State.
    On July 30 in Casper the Office of State Lands and Investments will host a daylong meeting addressing several aspects of wind energy development on the properties it holds in trust for the benefit of the state’s schoolchildren. The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. at Casper College’s Sharon Nichols Auditorium with an opening address from OSLI Director Lynne Boomgaarden. Objectives of the meeting have been described by the OSLI as:
    • Determine compatibility concerns of agricultural, oil & gas and mining operators.
    • Determine whether concerns are currently being mitigated through OSLI land management or industry management practices.
    • Determine if improvements to current processes and practices can be identified.
    Agriculture will be represented on the panel discussion by rancher Doug Cooper and Scott Zimmerman, Wyoming Field Representative and Lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Also speaking will be representatives of OSLI, oil and gas, mining and the wind energy development industry.
    An RSVP is not required to attend the July 30 OSLI event in Casper. Those seeking additional information can call 307-777-8510 or visit the agency’s website at http://slf-web.state.wy.us.
    Cooper says, “Our ranch is one of the first state grazing lessees to have a wind sublease placed over state land where we are not a participant in the larger wind development. The wind developer intends to access our state lease through another ranch operation.” He says he hopes to stimulate some thought on the conflicts between grazing and wind development and difficulties that exist surrounding compensation.
    Cooper explains, “The current system of damage compensation developed for mineral extraction does not fit well with wind development. Some of the problems I would like to point out are that wind development interferes with aerial predator control, sagebrush spraying and the checking of livestock.” Cooper says it’s difficult to negotiate with wind developers given the proprietary nature of their businesses.
     Aug. 13-14 at the University of Wyoming Union Ballroom in Laramie “Governor Freudenthal’s Wyoming Wind Symposium” will take place. This gathering will include discussions on topics ranging from the appropriate locations for developments to transmission lines.
    Seating at the Laramie event is limited. Attendees are asked to RSVP to Abbigail Crank at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 307-777-8525.
    On Aug. 26-27 members of the Wyoming Legislature’s Task Force on Wind Energy will gather in Casper. The meeting will take place at the Wyoming Contractors Association McMurry Training Center at 2220 Bryan Stock Trail. As of press time, an agenda had not been released.
    In recent weeks the Governor’s office and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have reaffirmed an Aug. 1, 2008 executive order addressing new developments in the state’s core sage grouse habitat areas as defined on a map prepared by the state.
    In response to a letter from Wyoming Game and Fish Director Steve Ferrell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Area Director Brian Kelly noted that wind energy development within core areas could prove to be a factor in his agency’s pending decision on whether or not to list the greater sage grouse as threatened or endangered in Wyoming. Kelly wrote: “…constructing wind farms in core areas, even for research purposes, prior to demonstration it can be done with no impact to sage-grouse, negates the usefulness of the core area strategy and brings into question whether adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to protect the species.”
    Some wind development companies received the news about wind energy development and core sage grouse areas amidst planning projects that are within the boundaries of the core areas. Landowners in some of these areas have signed leases and are now questioning the future of their agreements. Core areas are sure to be one aspect of the discussions at the above meetings.
    Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Ron Terrazas is passionate about working with producers in the agriculture industry to improve efficiencies on farms and ranches across the U.S., and his efforts have been working to improve access to energy.

“This is a pioneering effort in agriculture,” Terrazas says of his work with wind energy. “Distributed generation of power makes sense for many producers.”

Distributed generation

Terrazas explains that distributed generation produces power outside of a central power plant.

“Rather than having giant power plants or wind farms that generate energy and put it into long distance transmission lines, a lot of people would rather produce their own power locally,” he says.

Transmission lines are expensive and result in a seven to eight percent loss of power. Power generated remotely and passed through transmission lines is also subject to outages and failure.

Solar is the most common form of distributed power generation, Terrazas says, “Until our product, small wind just wasn’t efficient.”

Terrazas is the co-founder of Prudencia Power, the sales and financing partner of Change Wind Corporation. Change Wind is an American manufacturer of vertical axis wind turbines, rather than traditional horizontal turbines. 

Benefits of vertical

Change Wind’s turbines cost around $60,000 and are approximately as tall as a telephone pole. 

The turbines, crafted in small machine shops on the East Coast, are quiet and produce electricity at low wind velocity. They are delivered via truck or rail, can be installed within a few days and only require a small, concrete pad.

“After ranchers buy and install the turbines, they can get a tax credit,” Terrazas says. “These turbines also generate power more cheaply than using solar arrays.”

While vertical axis wind turbines have been around for nearly 80 years, he says they have largely failed because of the stack weight – or the weight of the turbine.

“They were heavy, and they weren’t efficient,” he explains. “The people who started Change Wind came from the automobile manufacturing industry. They applied techniques used in race cars to wind turbines.”

For example, magnetic levitation technology enables turbines to spin with reduced friction. A breeze of only five miles per hour causes Change Wind turbines to spin. 

Change Wind turbines utilize turbulent air, rather than laminar wind flow.

“Laminar wind is only available at high altitude, so wind turbines like the giant ones we see in Wyoming have to be tall where the wind blows steadily,” Terrazas says. “Turbulent air is available at the surface.”

Creating wind power

In areas with good wind, Terrazas explains that a turbine can power a farm or ranch and limit payments to a utility company.

“The maximum theoretical power generation is 300,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year,” he says. “With an average wind speed of eight miles per hour, we can get 100,000 kilowatt-hours per year generated from these wind turbines.”

The average American household utilizes about 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month, meaning a turbine could power 10 houses per year with an average wind speed of eight miles per hour.

“There is potential to cut power costs in a big way,” Terrazas says.

He also notes that even if ranchers don’t go completely off the grid, wind power provides an opportunity to reduce electricity bills.

“Once we reach a certain amount of energy consumption, the electricity bill goes way up,” he adds. “This might provide a way to supplement energy needs.”

Wind speeds

“Power output increases with the cube of the wind velocity,” Terrazas says. “It doesn’t take much more wind speed to create a whole lot of power.”

At the same time, the turbines also come equipped with a braking system to preserve the life of the turbine. Wind speeds higher than 12 miles per hour influence the system to begin braking.

Another common concern is the intermittency of the wind, Terrazas adds.

“The wind doesn’t blow all the time,” he comments, noting that they estimate that power can be produced one-third of the time. “The power can be stored if ranchers invest in a battery, or if they want to plug into the grid, that is an option, too.”

Pioneer effort

Terrazas explains that vertical axis wind is relatively new to agriculture, but he sees a lot of potential for the future.

“Up until now, most of our sales have been directed toward the military, but we know there is a huge demand,” he says. “We also know that wind power has been inefficient. We know ranchers need power, and we think this can help supply ranchers.”

As a Wyoming-based company, Terrazas says the remote nature of the ag industry in the state provides the perfect opportunity to expand power supply in the state.

“This can provide ranchers with a way to supply power to places they might not have been able to supply before or to areas where it was expensive to ship power to,” Terrazas adds. “There is a lot of potential for the ag industry.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Now in initial planning stages, the project known as the Gateway West Transmission Line Project has met little resistance to date, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
    From nine public scoping meetings held throughout Idaho and Wyoming, BLM Project Manager Walt George says response as of the end of June has been low. “We had 15 or 16 people at each meeting, and only 140 people at nine meetings is a low turnout; we’ve had less than 10 comments submitted,” he says.
    The project is now in the scoping period of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and preliminary comments are due by July 3.
    “We’ve had a few comments supporting the project for various reasons – one of them is it’s a way to get electrical energy out of the state to markets removed from Wyoming,” says George. “Wyoming is not a big energy-consuming state, but this would help get energy to Denver, Salt Lake City, Boise and the West Coast. More transmission from Wyoming will foster more electrical generation within the state.”
    He says some of the comments have been concerned about the lines’ location and the impact to resources like national historic trails and wildlife habitat. “However, I wouldn’t characterize any of the comments as strenuously opposed to the project. People have been expressing concerns and asking some questions.”
    So far the scoping process has not identified any additions to the list of issues already compiled by the BLM.
    The effect of the transmission lines on private landowners will be the placement of or proximity to the new lines. “There’s a wide spectrum of folks who want or don’t want a facility on or near their property, but the utilities will pay for an easement on private land and any damage associated with constructing the project,” says George.
    He says the one-time payments for easements across property are similar to those paid in town. “In town you’ve got street, sewer and other utility easements, so this is a rural variation,” he explains.
    Because public and private lands are so intermixed along the lines’ route, one will not dictate placement on the other. “At the present we’re dealing with a two-mile-wide corridor, and as the utilities finalize the route and as the BLM continues with scoping we’ll be looking at a center line located on a 300-foot right-of-way and that will be the permanent easement,” says George.
    One concern George mentions related to agriculture are irrigated fields with center pivots. “The pivots have been a part of the routing studies. We’re trying to avoid ag lands where there is pivot irrigation in favor of flood irrigation because we obviously can’t put a utility pole in the middle of a center pivot’s path,” he says.
    Poles are placed at a rate of four per mile on average, and George says the utilities do have some flexibility to vary the distance between the towers to miss the pivots. “In a center or half pivot you’ve got the corners, so the utilities can place the towers there, but they’re looking to cross lands along ownership lines rather than diagonally to keep it simple,” explains George.
    “This project, or any other project heading out of the state, could serve as a catalyst to renewable energy development within Wyoming,” says George of the transmission lines’ benefits. “Private landowners might want to see wind energy facilities on their lands with annual payments, and that’s where the benefit to private landowners comes from in this.”
    After the scoping process ends July 3 the BLM will take a month to analyze the comments and produce a scoping report. Some of the issues, like the proposed route, will be finalized in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and then George says the BLM will go into “hibernation” on the subject, at least for the public perspective.
    “We’ll be preparing a draft EIS internally and we hope to have that available for review by the public in early 2009,” he says. “It’s going to take us a good six months to get the EIS put together and have the internal review.”
    He says it’ll take two or three years to get through the entire project and he encourages people who are keenly interested in the project to visit the website periodically for changes and updates.
    There will be a formal public comment period for 60 days following issuance of the draft EIS, which is currently planned for early 2009. During that time the public can receive and comment on the document and a series of public meetings will be held to collect further input.
    Send comments before July 3 by mail to the BLM at Bureau of Land Management, Gateway West Project, PO Box 20879, Cheyenne, WY 82003 or email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information visit www.wy.blm.gov/nepa/cfodocs/gateway_west/. Christy Hemken is assistant editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Laramie – “We’re very certain of our regulatory uncertainty in Wyoming,” said Aaron Clark, Energy Infrastructure Advisor to Gov. Freudenthal and Wheatland rancher at the Governor’s early August Wind Energy Symposium.
    He said there are four factors that determine where wind energy will be developed in the state.
    “One is where the economically developable winds are in the state – they’re not everywhere, and some places they’re prolific. Second is the location of new transmission hubs. We haven’t talked about how critical the collector systems are,” he explained. “Sage grouse are now a very big factor in determining where wind goes, and last is the public acceptance of wind.”
    Clark said the best winds are in the Laramie Range in Laramie and Albany counties, as well as Platte, Converse and Natrona. “Rawlins and Elk Mountain don’t have as much superb wind, but a lot that’s economically developable, the same is true for the Sierra Madres. We’re also seeing proposals in the Green and Ferris mountain ranges in northern Carbon and southern Fremont counties,” he said.
    However, he said those last two are more remote and removed from energy transmission proposals.
    “There’s an extensive amount of wind in northern Converse County, in the Cheyenne River Divide country,” he continued. “There’s also good quality winds in the Wind Rivers and Big Horns, and I feel for the first person who proposes a project up there.”
    In regard to ongoing leasing and proposed projects, Clark said there are some proposals near Rock Springs, but only for small projects. The other project is the Pathfinder Project, which includes good quality wind in southeast Fremont, southwest Natrona and northern Carbon counties.
    “The most active site for projects is from Rawlins east to Medicine Bow, Hanna and Rock River, which have good quality wind but also the biggest conflict with wildlife resources,” he said.
    “Platte, Goshen and northern Laramie counties have the most overlooked resource in the state,” said Clark. “The quality is very good, and the wind is prolific, but it’s also most removed from the western load centers, which are driving siting right now.”
    “Sage grouse are an issue that’s confused the wind industry immensely. We’ve actively sought clarification from the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding sage grouse and wind development, and we got that clarification,” said Clark, referring to the FWS directive that no wind development should occur in sage grouse core areas.
    “In 2002 the state started to develop this core area strategy as a regulatory mechanism to justify that this bird doesn’t need to be listed in the state and to demonstrate we had in place a regulatory mechanism that would ensure the viability of the species,” explained Clark. “That’s where we were shortest in the state.”
    “We provided specific guidance for mining, agriculture and oil and gas, but not wind. Wind was not even in the cards,” he continued. “The bottom line now is pretty simple and straightforward – if we in the state approve a wind project in a sage grouse core area, that would lead to listing.”
    Clark said the concept of core areas is sound, because while sage grouse range throughout the state, it’s believed that 80 percent of the state’s birds can be managed in core areas.
    “Right now over 86 percent of coal production is within the range of sage grouse, but only four percent is within sage grouse core areas,” said Clark. “In natural gas production, 83 percent is within the bird’s range, but only two percent is in core areas.”
    Clark encouraged the wind community to get out and help develop the research regarding development and sage grouse. “It’s in their and our best interest to come up with good numbers we can use to manage sage grouse in wind development,” he said.
    “These management prescriptions and decisions by no means shut the door on wind development in the state,” stated Clark. “It may shuffle it around a little bit, but we still have a lot more opportunity for wind in this state than we’ll ever have demand for. “
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Wheatland – “America’s need to develop renewable energy in a cost-effective, environmentally sensitive manner sees no political boundaries. It’s a goal that warrants developing resources where they’re the most plentiful and delivering that newfound energy to the areas of greatest need. Such an opportunity exists between Wyoming’s budding wind energy industry and California’s desire to utilize an admirable level of green energy. For these reasons we would like to see Wyoming wind energy that is physically delivered to the State of California qualified as an unrestricted renewable energy source by the California Public Utility Commission on May 20, 2010.”
That’s the opening paragraph of the letter sent by the Renewable Energy Alliance of Landowners (REAL) to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger regarding the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) March 10 ruling that the use of out-of-state renewable energy to fill that state’s 33 percent renewable energy portfolio standard will be limited.
The letter is in response to the CPUC’s approval of an order that says California will cap – or at least severely restrict – out-of-state renewable energy. In addition to Governor Schwarzenegger, it was also sent to the CPUC and a California lobbyist group known as the Utility Reform Network.
“California politicians are saying they need to develop their own renewable energy to create jobs and business in their own state, but there’s no way to develop enough renewable energy in California to meet their 33 percent standard,” says Stumbough.
Southeast Wyoming RC&D Coordinator Grant Stumbough says another reason the order was passed is that some California utilities were purchasing credits from Oregon and Washington, and using them toward satisfying the renewable portfolio standard. “Those are paper credits, and the CPUC has said that’s not quite fair,” he adds.
While TransCanada’s Zephyr Project has been billed as a direct line to the California market, Stumbough says the line is not satisfactory to California because it first makes a stop at the transmission hub south of Las Vegas, Nev.
With signup locations in Douglas, Glendo and Wheatland, Stumbough says the letter quickly gained over 100 signatures on May 5.
“The purpose of the letter is to send a message to California that we’re open for business, that landowners are supportive of wind energy, that we have some of the best wind in the world and that Wyoming can provide some of the cheapest and most reliable renewable energy on the American continent,” says Stumbough.
“The letter demonstrates that we have over 200 landowners who are very proactive and in favor of wind energy development, and that California needs to look at us, because we can provide renewable energy to them,” continues Stumbough.
The letter explains, “REAL is comprised of approximately 300 landowners who own a combined 800,000 acres with over 7,000 megawatts of wind energy production potential. Our members have either leased or are interested in leasing their wind development rights with the goal of helping meet America’s energy needs.”
On May 20 the CPUC will meet to either clarify the order and allow out-of-state renewables to come to California because they can’t produce enough themselves, or the Commission may decide to continue with their previous decision.
“Hopefully the letter will ‘grease the skids’ and convince California to look at Wyoming for renewable energy,” says Stumbough. “The main purpose is to send the message to California that we have some of the best world-class wind, that we can provide them with a cheap, reliable wind energy resource and they should reconsider looking at Wyoming as a major source of renewable energy. It says we as landowners are willing and able to provide renewable energy, and that we want to.”
The letter continues, “We’d like to help California reach its renewable energy goals by physically delivering energy over inter-state transmission from our ranches to your state’s residents. You can think of it as a long extension cord connecting your state’s consumers with Wyoming’s outstanding wind energy resources. The power we’ll produce isn’t just renewable energy, but green energy developed in one of the nation’s best locations in partnership with Wyoming ranchers.”
“Hopefully the letter will help them make a good decision when May 20 comes around,” says Stumbough.
If the Commission doesn’t decide in favor of out-of-state renewable energy supplies, Stumbough says the ruling is only in effect for a year. However, he says it could have long-term impacts.
“As California’s discussions surrounding renewable energy progress toward a decision on Order 10-01-021 language on May 20, 2010, we would like your help in reaching our mutual goals,” write the landowners. “We can achieve this by clarifying that renewable energy produced in Wyoming and delivered to California’s consumers qualifies as an unrestricted renewable energy source. This will allow California to meet its renewable energy goals in a faster and more cost-effective manner, a win-win-win for utilities, consumers and the environment.”
“We want to get it clarified and overturned, so we can continue to work on transmission projects and wind farms in southeast Wyoming,” says Stumbough.
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..