Carbon commissioners hesitant to approve wind farm permit

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By Ray K. Erku and Mathew McKay

Rawlins Daily Times

Via Wyoming News Exchange

RAWLINS – Yet again Carbon County Commissioners hesitated to make any approvals on a Conditional Use Permit regarding the proposed Little Medicine Bow S LLC wind energy project.

After hearing arguments from LMB CEO Juan Carlos Carpio-Delfino and Q Creek Ranch Land and Cattle Company representative Dan Zyvoloski on Tuesday, the Commission opted to have the project proposal reviewed by the Industrial Siting Council of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

The Council has 15 days to respond to the request.

One of the major reasons why the Commission didn’t make an approval was that, after pressing Carpio-Delfino on if he obtained permits – including an Eagle Take Permit through the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, as well as an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management (the proposed line runs through some BLM land) – he said he’s only been speaking with these entities.

This means nothing has yet been finalized; although Carpio-Delfino did say he’s had a cost recovery contract with Game & Fish in place since 2016.

In addition to Commissioners’ main reasons to delay the CUP, representative John Espy said they don’t have the “social or economic” expertise to make the call, and that reclamation and decommission plans needs to be in place.

Nevertheless, LMB has been running into hurdles in recent months.

It was early June that the $50 million pilot project, originally set to erect 13 wind turbines off U.S. Highway 487 near Medicine Bow, encountered a setback when Q Creek, which operates in the area, erected a trailer in the proposed wind charger line.

With that, the county’s setback ordinance, according to Carbon County Planning and Development Director Sid Fox, dictates that the proposed turbines must be placed farther than 5.5 times its own height away from any dwelling.

The man camp trailer house is classified as a dwelling.

From there, according to Carpio-Delfino, LMB had to “go back to the drawing board.” In doing so, the CEO reported to Commissioners a new project plan, thinking it would appease the setback ordinance.

What was originally anticipated to generate $19.45 million in tax revenue for the county and state, due to adjustments the project will now generate $17.4 million, says Carpio-Delfino.

This 10 percent reduction, which Carpio-Delfino presented on Tuesday, included reducing the number of turbines to 11 (from 13), as well as shortening height and rotor diameter of the wind chargers.

On the northern sector of the project, the rotor diameters of the three 3.2 megawatt turbines were reduced now 103 meters, said Carpio-Delfino. On the southern parcel, the eight 3.83 megawatt turbines were decreased to 143 meters in rotor diameter.

Despite the changes, for Zyvoloski and Q Creek, they still oppose the project.

According to Zyvoloski, the proposed wind farm isn’t a “standalone pilot project.” Instead, he noted, it’s merely a precursor to a larger “master plan” project, which is headed by Viridis Eolia, a company which Carpio-Delfino also directs.

If built, this Virids Eolia Master Plan would become one of “largest wind energy developments in the United States,” according to viridiseolia.com. It would be built on 98,381 acres of BLM and state lands, and it would include up to 748 turbines.

Zyvoloski stated that the LMB “pilot project” is simply being considered as that moniker as a way for investors to safe harbor tax credits for the larger Master Plan. In addition, he said, there are currently 11 entities involved with the LMB project.

“It’s the single largest implication of this pilot project,” said Zyvoloski.

Over a 10-year span, if the Master Plan materializes, Zyvoloski said $1.1 billion will be saved in tax credits by involved investors, being it’s one project and not a series of projects.

Zyvoloski later stated that LMB is too small a project to need the amount of power it will generate through its adjoining transmission line, which is directed by PacifiCorp Electricity Company.

“This helps explain why they needed a 230-kV transmission line for such a small project,” he said. “A 40-megawatt project doesn’t need a 230-kV transmission line. Up to 400 or 500 megawatts can be carried on a 230-kV transmission line.”

In addition, Zyvoloski said that, from a letter submitted by LMB to the Industrial Siting Council in April 2012, Carpio-Delfino stated that the project “intends to qualify for the protection of tax credits.”

In following, after four years of ISC scrutiny, Zyvoloski said Carpio-Delfino sent another letter. This time, according to Zyvoloski, Carpio-Delfino’s rhetoric changed, and he stated that LMB was an “initial test project” and that it was an “independent wind development project.”

In response to Zyvoloski, Carpio-Delfino said that he was following under the legal guidelines dictated by the IRS and that Zyvoloski was “missing information.”

Before the meeting adjourned, two members from the audience – Medicine Bow Town Council Member Kendra Colman and Director of Carbon County Economic Development Cindy Wallace, spoke in favor of the project.

“Everybody is going after tax credits – that’s normal,” said Wallace. “PacifiCorp and (LMB) are actually trying to get everything done by 2020 so they can get in favor of the tax credit… so why not?”

Being LMB is facing more obstacles, Carpio-Delfino noted that investors are beginning to entertain the notion of shying away from the project. He said that $750,000 has been dispersed to contractors last month alone.

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