Big Wyoming wind farm clears another government hurdle

Source: By MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press • Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2016

CHEYENNE — One of the biggest wind projects under development in North America cleared another regulatory hurdle Wednesday with the release of a federal environmental study looking at the first-phase installation of 500 wind turbines.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s environmental analysis tentatively allows planning for the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project south of Rawlins to continue. The agency found no new problems after looking at exactly where the developers propose to put the turbines.

The document focuses on plans by Power Company of Wyoming, a subsidiary of The Anschutz Corp., to install 229 wind turbines in 2019 and another 271 in 2020. Eventually the wind farm would have up to 1,000 turbines and be able to power nearly 1 million homes.

Federal agencies have been analyzing the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project since 2008. That includes review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of how many bald and golden eagles the massive blades would likely kill each year and how the wind farm could be designed to keep those deaths down.

The Bureau of Land Management will take public comment on the latest analysis through April 8.

“It’s encouraging to reach another important permitting milestone,” Power Company of Wyoming President and CEO Bill Miller said in an emailed statement.

The project area covers about 340 square miles of mostly open sagebrush country in the northern foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains of south-central Wyoming. About half of the area is public land and half private land owned by Anschutz.

The Bureau of Land Management plans to issue a right of way for the project after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approves an eagle-conservation plan for the development of the turbine.