The changes include moving the locations of some wind turbines and a substation within the project’s already approved area. Wasatch Wind’s Casper-based attorney, John Masterson, described them as small, “micro-siting adjustments.”
“A lot of these modifications would generally be done administratively within the [Industrial Siting] Division,” Masterson told the council at a meeting at a Saratoga community center on Wednesday. “We felt in consultation with the division, the most prudent way would be to bring it in front of you.”
Christine Mikell, president of Park City, Utah-based Wasatch Wind and Power LLC, said the company requested the changes for environmental and wildlife reasons, including moving some of the turbines 150 meters to 200 meters to the west to reduce visual impacts. Among the wildlife impacts are the threat of raptors being killed by the turbines, she said.
Wasatch Wind first announced the project, called Pioneer Wind Park, in 2010. It's now planned to have 46 turbines and produce 80 megawatts of power. State law requires any construction project costing $190.8 million or more to go before the seven-member siting council for approval.
Pioneer Wind Park will be outside of Glenrock, but construction has been stalled after to a series of legal challenges from residents in the area and financial hurdles. The project’s financial partner, Edison Mission Energy, filed for bankruptcy last year. At the time, the siting council gave Wasatch Wind until May 2014 to find a financial partner and until July to break ground. Then Rock Mountain Power’s power purchase agreement with Wasatch Wind expired.
The landowners who have challenged the project joined to form the Northern Laramie Range Alliance. Their attorney, Casper-based Peter Nicolaysen, challenged Wasatch Wind’s request in this week's siting council meeting in Saratoga, saying it lacked details and substance. He said he didn’t know whether the changes would really help mitigate effects on views and wildlife.
“They’ve told us nothing about those environmental impacts,” he said.
As part of his argument against Wasatch Wind, Nicolaysen presented the siting council with a document that members of the council said they didn't have time to read on the day they were to make the decision -- before voting in favor of Wasatch Wind’s request.
“We can’t hold these proceedings and have this kind of information or any other be dumped on us at this point,” siting council Chairman Shawn Warner of Powell said.