In Wyoming’s coal-rich Powder River Basin, the city of Sheridan is exploring how renewable sources of energy might fit into its future. The local government applied for a $44,000 research grant that the Wyoming Business Council approved earlier this month.
Now their proposal will go before the governor’s State Land and Investment Board for final approval. The town’s leaders have been looking into wind, solar, and hydropower development since the 1990s, and a recent economic study found that a lack of renewable development in Sheridan could be a deal-breaker for tech companies.
Mayor Roger Miller said coal remains an important commodity for Sheridan, but he wants to know if renewables could help lower energy costs, and if extra production could help low-income people pay their bills. He said the time has come to collect more information on the idea.
“Blame it on me being an old ex-cop, I want to know why,” Miller said. “Why can’t we do this in the future? Is it legal, or is it illegal? Is it healthy or unhealthy? You ask all the questions, and hopefully, can come to a consensus that it’s potentially good and maybe we should move forward.”
Miller added that if the study helps Sheridan’s progress economically, it could be relevant across the state.
“It’s important for your larger towns or cities to do things to show the progressive possibilities out there, so that your surrounding communities can look at you and go, hey, can we look at that? And my answer is yes, absolutely, here it is, we’ll print you a copy, see what you can do with it. You know, it’s public funds, so it’s public knowledge,” Miller said.
This spring, the city is also finishing up construction of a micro-hydropower turbine, which the mayor said will pay for itself in about ten years.