It’s no secret that Wyoming has world-class wind.
But when engineer Ryan Jacobson saw the data from the prospective wind farm location near Rawlins, even his 15 years of experience in the industry couldn’t mute his surprise.
42 mph, he read.
And that speed wasn’t a gust but an average speed for the month of January. That’s the highest average in more than three years worth of testing, he said.
“Having a month where the average wind speeds are above 40 is pretty incredible,” he said. “I’ve never seen resources consistent like this.”
The proposed $4 billion-$6 billion, 1,000-turbine wind farm — known as the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Energy Project — would sit on a site just south of Rawlins, on about 154 square miles of the Overland Trail Cattle Company, a ranch owned by Denver-based Anschutz Corp.
The project is currently under review by the Bureau of Land Management, since the 315,000-acre ranch is a checkerboard of private and federal lands.
Twenty-five monitoring towers festoon the development site and provide data that will help determine the best place for the turbine towers and which turbines to use, said Jacobson, who is director of engineering and construction for Power Co. of Wyoming, an Anschutz subsidiary heading up the project.
The site is no stranger to good wind conditions. The site features a monthly average wind speed of 18 to 29 mph, and January brought one 77 mph burst of wind, said Kara Choquette, spokeswoman for Power Co. of Wyoming and TransWest Express.
TransWest, another Anschutz subsidiary, is working on the high-voltage transmission line that will transport the wind energy out of the state to emerging renewable energy markets in the Southwest.
The BLM is currently working on a draft environmental impact statement for the wind farm and should release the final statement in 2012. Once state and county permissions are in hand, the wind farm will begin construction, hopefully in 2012-213, Choquette said.
Once complete, the wind farm will produce 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts of electricity — enough power for 600,000 homes in the West, Jacobson said.
“The data shows this is a great place to build a wind farm,” said Choquette. “Wyoming is a great place for wind, but this is an exceptional site.”