CHEYENNE – A proposed increase in wind energy taxes could thwart a massive wind power project in southern Wyoming, an executive of the company leading the project reiterated Thursday.
Bill Miller, the president of Power Company of Wyoming, made the remarks at the Wyoming Business Report’s Wyoming Energy Summit on Thursday afternoon in Cheyenne.
The company has been trying to build the Chockecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, an up to 1,000-turbine wind energy production facility in Carbon County.
A sister company, TransWest Express, plans to build a 730-mile transmission line from Sinclair to Las Vegas to deliver power generated by the wind farm.
Both projects would represent billions of dollars in investment in the state.
But last week, the Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee floated a proposal that would increase taxes on wind energy.
“That has thrown us back into a period of uncertainty,” Miller said. “We still want to commence construction on these projects.
Site work is expected to begin this year and will take two years before the turbines could actually be built.
“We’re prepared to commence construction this year,” Miller said. “We face this new issue; we’re going to have to resolve it.”
During the Revenue Committee discussion last week, some lawmakers said the wind industry was trying to hurt the coal industry.
But earlier Thursday afternoon, a University of Wyoming professor said promoting wind energy could actually help the coal sector.
University of Wyoming professor Rob Godby said that’s because under current regulations, wind power could help offset emissions restrictions if Wyoming adopts a rate-based plan to respond to the federal Clean Power Plan.
Godby, an associated economics professor, said more wind power on the grid could decrease the amount of emissions the state produces per megawatt hour of electricity.
Thus, some coal plants could continue to operate.
While that will not save the coal industry, it would help stave off some contraction.
Godby said “natural gas is coal’s worst enemy right now,” not wind.
He said Wyoming should encourage wind development and noted that wind energy is not a resource unique to the state.
“We are not the Powder River Basin of wind,” he said. “Wind can be produced in a lot of places.”
Other panelists on Thursday pointed out other Western states have committed to moving to renewable energy.
That, combined with new transmission lines in various levels of completion, could make for a thriving wind industry in Wyoming.
A member of the Revenue Committee, Rep. Sue Wilson, R-Cheyenne, was at the Energy Summit and reiterated that the proposed wind taxes are not official.
The Revenue Committee meets next in September in Buffalo.
“You can be sure what I’ve heard today will go to Buffalo,” she said.