By Chrissy Suttles
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — A proposed wind energy project to power northern Colorado communities would be operated on public and private Laramie County land.
The Roundhouse Renewable Energy Project would deliver up to 150 megawatts of energy to more than 70,000 households in Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont and Estes Park, Colorado, annually.
A total of 75 turbines, managed by Utah-based Enyo Renewable Energy, would be built on 30,000 acres of land just north of the Wyoming-Colorado border, southwest of Cheyenne. The power would then be sold to Platte River Power Authority, a Colorado-based energy company.
It would become one of northern Colorado’s largest sources of wind power, tripling what Platte River now uses, according to project documents.
In addition to turbines, an above-ground, 80- to 100-foot transmission line would carry power from the wind farm to Rawhide Energy Station near Wellington, Colorado.
The project is expected to establish 250 temporary construction jobs and 10 full-time jobs but, because project representatives were not available for comment, it is unclear how many of those jobs will benefit Wyoming’s economy. After completion, ranchers would resume using the property for grazing.
Total project costs have not yet been identified, but the U.S. Department of Energy estimates commercial-scale turbines can cost up to $4 million after installation.
To move forward, the company must present the project to a number of planning departments in Fort Collins for recommendation and approval by the Fort Collins City Council, as well as the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s industrial siting council.
Rob Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming, said it’s not atypical for companies outside of Wyoming to utilize its wind potential.
“Wyoming has actually built its energy infrastructure to export most of the electricity produced here,” he said. “The wind resource here is really good; the wind blows more often and more steadily than many other places in the country, and that’s why we have always touted it as a development tool.”
Another reason Colorado communities may use Wyoming’s energy is its diverse weather patterns. Wyoming sees wind flow generally different than that of the western plains, where many of Colorado’s existing farms are built.
“There is a benefit to diversifying your sources of wind,” Godby said. “It turns out Wyoming wind sources are complementary to Colorado winds. They tend to peak at different times of the day and fill in some of those gaps.”
Godby said much of the wind energy developed in Wyoming is outsourced to other states, and that the economic benefit is not sacrificed.
“Most of our wind generation in the state has been built to export, just like most of our coal generation has been built to export,” he said. “Whether we are selling it to Wyomingites or Coloradans, we don’t really care. There is economic benefit in terms of additional income, additional jobs and additional tax revenues.”
Wyoming’s economy has long been dependent on fossil fuel taxes, and the state introduced a tax on power-generated wind resources in 2012 – $1 per megawatt-hour.
Milton Fatosh, an economist in Los Angeles, has studied Wyoming’s wind energy tax after the proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, a 1,000-turbine wind farm in Carbon County to power California communities, made headlines.
The state’s tax has brought in about $4 million in annual revenue since.
“With what I know about Wyoming’s wind tax and the size of this Colorado plan, the state would see some positive economic impact,” he said. “In Wyoming, where diversification is desperately needed in the energy sector, it would help financially through tax collections from the state, and other companies may look to build down the road as well, which is an additional benefit.”
If approved, the project would be completed by 2020.