The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) is making headway on the rail tie wind project outside the small southern Wyoming city of Tie Siding.
The proposed project, owned by ConnectGen, a Houston-based clean energy driven company, would include up to 151 wind turbines that would generate a capacity of up to 504 megawatts. Located on an approximately 26,000-acre site, the project would be visible from highway-287.
On January 14, WAPA, a power marketing administration within the U.S. Department of Energy held two pubic scoping meetings in Laramie, Wyoming with about 80 people in attendance to discuss issues deemed most valuable by the public and to talk to attendees about what resources are most important to them.
“Most folks attending the public scoping meetings were concerned about the project and wanted more information,” said Lisa Meiman, Public Affairs Specialist for WAPA.
A few of the top concerns among those in attendance of the meetings were visual impacts to expansive views, coupled closely with perceived negative property value impacts. Other concerns include historic sites and trails as well as impacts on game animals like birds.
These meetings were part of a public scoping period that spanned 30 days, ending January 31. Scoping consists of interested parties giving input on what should be reviewed and what is most important in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that WAPA will begin drafting soon.
Producing the draft EIS will take around a year. Thereafter, the public will review and comment on it at which point WAPA will go back and review feedback from public meetings, creating a final EIS. “Once that is out, we will issue a record of decision about 90 days afterward,” said Meiman. WAPA is anticipating the entire EIS process will take nearly twenty months.
Headquartered in Lakewood, WAPA’s involvement in the project is a transmission line. In order to put the proposed wind farm on the power grid, WAPA has to build an interconnection switchyard that will connect the existing current Craig and Ault line to the rail-tie wind project. The switchyard will make sure the wind farm would be at the right voltage at all times.
Connect-Gen is held responsible for constructing the wind blade farm and although the EIS reviews both, WAPA deals with the transmission line. Nevertheless, concerned parties are focused on the wind and transmission farm in regard to what impacts will they have on that area.
“The landowners get paid by ConnectGen to put the wind farm there, but people are very concerned about the visual resources since the wind farm will be seen from Highway 287,” said Meiman.