wind energy

Madelyn Beck

What should Wyoming’s stance on Wind Energy be?

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Renewable energy organizations who signed a letter opposing certain provisions in the Congressional tax reform bills
ACORE, AWEA, CRES, SEIA

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have both passed a tax reform bill, and both bills have the renewable energy industry nervous. That includes four organizations 

United States Capitol in daylight
Kevin McCoy

The U.S. House and Senate disagree over whether to slash subsidies for the wind industry.

In 2015, Congress agreed to five more years of a tax credits for wind production. If a company could make headway or finish development of a new project by 2020, they would receive a tax break called a production tax credit, or PTC. It’s helped launch investment in new projects around the country, including Wyoming. The surge in development is expected to add 38 new megawatts of wind energy by 2020 in the states, according to a Bloomberg-related research group.

Tony Webster from Portland, OR

Rocky Mountain Power is one of many around the country turning up their investment in wind.

 

Cooper McKim

Experts from around the country gathered Monday to discuss Wyoming’s wind energy future. The free conference was organized by the Ruckelshaus Institute and the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy. Wind is widely considered a growing industry with consistently decreasing price sand Wyoming is considered to have one of the best wind resources in the country with high potential for growth.

Madelyn Beck / Inside Energy

Laramie sees a lot of wind, but it’s about to see a lot more wind politics. The University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economy and Public Policy and the Ruckelshaus Institute are hosting a wind conference next week called Wyoming’s Wind Energy Future.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

Over 80 percent of new wind power last year went up in states that voted for President Donald Trump. It may sound strange when Trump’s aim is to bolster coal, not wind, but what red states usually promote is individual choice and a smart use of money. Now, wind power large and small is literally changing Wyoming’s energy landscape.  

Wind Farmer and Rancher

Some of that changing landscape will be around Chugwater, Wyo., population 212. Chugwater claims the state’s oldest operating soda fountain. But finding farmer Gregor Goertz was more of a challenge.

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

Wind energy projects are being built all over the U.S. and a new report shows just how fast they're cropping up. 

The American Wind Energy Association found that, since last year, the amount of wind energy under construction or nearly under construction increased 40 percent. That increase is enough to power more than 1.6 million homes on average.

Now, not all of the wind energy planned last year has come online this year, but more than half of it has.

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

The entrance to the community center in Rawlins, Wyoming smells like an old musty, floral perfume. The smell doesn’t match the view: several burly men are lined up to fill out name tags and sign in. Younger men mill around, waiting on their fathers and grandfathers. A few women dot the crowd.

About 100 people have shown up to hear about free training to be a wind turbine technician.

Rocky Mountain Power is investing $3.5 billion in expanding its wind energy portfolio. They’re looking for approval from three states including Wyoming to begin the project. 

The power company hopes to build new turbines along a 140-mile segment between Idaho and Wyoming. They also plan to make existing turbines more efficient, installing longer blades as well as new cells. Cells are the compartments that hold the blades together and generate electricity. 

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

One of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers is hosting meetings in Wyoming next month to encourage people to join its free wind turbine technician training.

Goldwind is a Chinese company with an interest in expanding U.S. wind operations. It made an agreement late last year to provide and maintain wind turbines for a Viridis Eolia Corp., which is constructing a wind farm near Medicine Bow, Wyo. 

Now, Goldwind hopes to train locals to become wind turbine technicians.

Leigh Paterson

What are your views regarding the increase of wind energy in Wyoming?

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Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

A Wyoming legislative committee soundly defeated a bill that would have substantially increased the state’s wind tax. 

The bill, which was supported by House Revenue Committee Chairman Mike Madden and others, would have raised Wyoming’s wind tax from a dollar a megawatt hour to five dollars a megawatt hour. 

Public Domain

The Obama Administration announced the approval of two major transmission lines, one that will travel 728 miles across southern Wyoming to Nevada, delivering 3,000 megawatts of energy, enough to power 1.8 million homes. A second 400-mile transmission line called Energy Gateway South has also been approved for Utah.

Some 60 new wind, solar and geothermal projects are slated for development around the West. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Brad Purdy said, the energy grid is in need of such modernization. 

Associated Press

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has reportedly been named to lead the Department of Energy under President Elect Donald Trump.  

Opponents express concern that Perry is a climate denier and has ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline. But supporters say Texas enhanced its energy portfolio by becoming the nation’s largest wind producer.

Petroleum Association of Wyoming President Bruce Hinchey says Perry will likely be a plus for states like Wyoming.

Stephanie Joyce

 

The future is looking up for Wyoming’s wind industry.

There are few places in the country with more wind energy potential than Wyoming, but the state has seen almost no new wind turbines built in six years, even while wind has boomed in the rest of the country.

Depending on who you ask, the challenges have been political, technical or both. But now, the outlook is improving on all fronts.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Proposals for generating new state revenue failed to draw much support from the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee during its meeting this week.

 

The committee rejected proposals to increase taxes on wind energy and tobacco. A bill that would have introduced a sales tax on services also failed and a proposal to repeal some sales tax exemptions was largely gutted. Of the nine sales tax exemptions considered, the committee voted to keep five of them intact.

 

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

  

Wind turbines are pretty sleek-looking from a distance, but there’s a lot going on behind those spinning blades.

Bryan Boatright, a wind energy technology instructor at Laramie County Community College, took me up into a deconstructed nacelle. A nacelle is a big rectangular box that holds generation components like the generator and drive train. Each one looks like an RV.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The company behind the largest proposed wind farm in the country, in Carbon County, says that uncertainty around Wyoming's wind tax policy is making it more difficult to invest in wind. 

Wyoming is the only state in the country that taxes wind energy production and is considering raising that tax, a move which could ultimately deter future wind projects.  

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

  

The wind industry is clearly growing. A new report from the American Wind Energy Association touts a record total of 88,000 jobs across the industry at the start of 2016, a 20-percent jump from a year ago. More wind power was added than any other U.S. electricity source in 2015, beating out natural gas and solar.

Leigh Paterson

A massive wind energy project that will spread from Rawlins to Saratoga received another positive assessment from the Bureau of Land Management Wednesday. 

The Chokecherry Sierra-Madre wind farm is the nation’s largest wind project. It’s expected to power up to a million homes. The BLM says the goal is to mitigate potential impacts and ensure that species needs are met along with along with renewable energy goals. BLM spokesman Dan Purdy adds that it should have a major economic impact.

Jeannie Stafford/USFWS & US Energy Dept

A chicken-sized game bird native to western sagebrush has become the subject of the biggest conservation project in U.S. history.

Efforts to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list stretch across 11 states from North Dakota to California. It is a complex balancing act between saving critical ecosystems while at the same time protecting the region’s key industries.

Chuck Abbe / Wikimedia Commons

The utility giant PacifiCorp has agreed to a $2.5 million dollar settlement over bird deaths at two of its wind farms in Wyoming.

PacifiCorp pleaded guilty to killing more than 300 birds, including 38 golden eagles. The Department of Justice says the company knew that its turbine siting at the farms outside of Glenrock would result in bird deaths. PacifiCorp spokesman David Eskelsen says the company disputes that characterization, but not the fine. 

“The law is the law and we’re committed to abide by the regulations,”  he said. 

Charles Cook via Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $4.2 million grant to the University of Wyoming for wind energy research.

Six different University departments will collaborate on the project.

UW professor Jonathan Naughton is the director of the Wind Energy Research Center and the principal investigator for the grant. He says the goal is to address barriers to rolling out renewable energy in the state—and research will focus on three key aspects.

The state Industrial Siting Commission gave the Power Company of Wyoming its blessing Wednesday to move ahead with plans to build the largest on-shore wind farm in the United States.

A thousand wind turbines would be erected in Carbon County if the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind farm is built, covering about 2,000 acres of private and public lands. The turbines would produce enough power for a million homes.

But Kara Choquette, with the Power Company of Wyoming, said none of that power will be used in the state.

A new study says energy generated from Wyoming wind could help California residents save up to one billion dollars annually in electricity costs. California’s renewable portfolio standard – or RPS – requires the state to get 33-percent of its energy from renewables by 2020. The Wyoming Infrastructure Authority commissioned the economic analysis.

Over the objections of environmental groups, the federal government agreed Friday to issue eagle-take permits to wind companies for 30 years, instead of five. The permits allow companies to kill a certain number of eagles without penalty, while requiring additional mitigation and conservation measures.

Industry lobbied for the change, saying that the short permits left too much uncertainty when planning major projects.

The federal government is getting ready to issue its first eagle-take permit for a wind power project in Wyoming. 

Normally, killing eagles is illegal. But the five-year permits allow wind companies to kill a certain number of eagles without penalty.

The Power Company of Wyoming hasn’t actually applied for a permit for its Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project in Carbon County yet, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started asking for public input in anticipation that it will.

A smartphone app that’s trying to raise awareness about conflicts between wind turbines and birds saw a spike in downloads after a settlement over eagle deaths at wind farms in Wyoming was announced last week.

The game is called WingWhackers, and the premise is pretty simple. You’re a protected bird of some kind -- an eagle, an owl, a hawk, and you need to make it home with dinner, through a field of spinning wind turbines.

A wind energy company that was fined a million dollars Friday for the deaths of 14 golden eagles at its Wyoming facilities says it’s making strides to mitigate future bird deaths.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Tammie McGee says Duke has removed rock piles that can attract prey and employs field biologists who send out alerts if turbines need to be shut down. She says they’re also working to install a radar system.

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