Wyoming landowners seek power lines for wind projects

WYOMING - Some Wyoming landowners who want wind turbines built on their property are asking the state to encourage the construction of power lines to their area.

The Renewable Energy Alliance of Landowners represents more than 300 people who own 675,000 acres in Platte, Goshen, Niobrara and Converse counties. The group consists of 12 landowner associations in the region and some individual landowners.

Building a commercial-scale wind farm often requires the cooperation of several landowners to piece together enough acreage to make the project feasible.

The REAL group asked the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority board to pursue more power line capacity for independent power generators. The problem is most power lines are built by utilities to carry their own electrical generation, group chairman Bob Whitton said.

Power lines have little room for third-party generators to tie into the grid.

"What we don't have are transmission lines," Whitton said. "Developers are concerned about where the power will go and who is the customer."

The Infrastructure Authority works to bridge the gap between wind energy developers and developers of power lines, said Steve Ellenbecker, the agency's director of government and external affairs.

"That role of facilitation is absolutely critical," Ellenbecker said. "But we need to do it without taking away the competitive nature of the transmission projects."

The first major expansion of power lines to the region may be the Wyoming-Colorado Intertie Project, which is on track to be in service in 2013. The 345-kilovolt line from the Laramie River Station coal-fired power plant near Wheatland to northeastern Colorado would enable some 850 megawatts of new electrical generation in eastern Wyoming.

Most of the additional capacity already is under contract, however.

Two other power lines are in the works: the High Plains Express Project from Wyoming to Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, and the Overland Intertie Project from southern Wyoming to Nevada.

But Whitton said the concern among REAL members is that, so far, the existing proposals still leave out northern Platte, Goshen, Niobrara and Converse counties — all windy areas.

"We have tremendous wind assets. If you ranched out here you'd believe it," Whitton said.


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