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Utility seeks approval for wind farm

Rocky Mountain Power plans to build 74 turbines in 2010

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CHEYENNE -- Rocky Mountain Power is progressing with plans to build a 74-turbine wind farm north of Medicine Bow and aims to begin producing electricity by November of next year, a company official said Wednesday.

Representatives of the Utah-based utility presented plans for the 111-megawatt Dunlap I wind project to Wyoming Public Service Commission staff members. Major utility projects are subject to a commission "certificate of public convenience and necessity."

Rocky Mountain Power, an affiliate of Oregon-based PacifiCorp Energy, proposes to build the turbines and a substation on a ranch mostly owned by the company about eight miles north of Medicine Bow. The $259 million project also includes construction of an 11-mile transmission line and a new substation in the Shirley Basin.

Rocky Mountain Power is the biggest producer of wind electricity in Wyoming with more than 515 megawatts of wind capacity in the state, or nearly two-thirds of the state's existing wind farm power.

Mark Tallman, PacifiCorp's vice president of renewable resource acquisition, said the company hopes to break ground in the fourth quarter of 2009 and believes there are economic advantages to building in 2010.

"Certainly we believe we will get desirable construction costs. There aren't a lot of wind projects being constructed in 2010," Tallman said. "There's kind of that little lull following the big dip in the economic downturn. For the most part, the industry is looking at 2011 as kind of being the year the wind industry really gets back going full force."

The Dunlap I project is also devoid of complications associated with sage grouse. The state of Wyoming is blocking new wind development in crucial sage grouse habitat in an effort to stave off federal endangered species protections for the bird.

Tallman said neither the Dunlap I project nor a potential 126-turbine expansion of the project, known as Dunlap II, overlaps with state-identified core habitat areas for the birds.

"That was a very large decision factor in us pursuing development of this site," he said.

Carbon County has already approved conditional use permits for the Dunlap I wind farm and substation, but the company still needs county building permits.

The company has also applied for a permit from the state's Industrial Siting Division, which has permitting authority over projects that cost at least $173.2 million.

"The Industrial Siting Council is ready to approve our permit and now we're waiting the final order, which should be out shortly," Tallman said.

The company's application to the Industrial Siting Division also includes Dunlap II, the project's potential second phase, but Tallman said the company has not set a development timeline for the second phase.

Tallman said energy produced at Dunlap would feed into PacifiCorp's power grid. He said the project is not dependent on Rocky Mountain Power's proposed Gateway West transmission line, a project with Idaho Power to build a line to export Wyoming wind and other power to Idaho and other points.


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