United States

United States

Windy gap in the Rockies could be site for several hundred megawatt

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The Rocky Mountain state of Wyoming might see as much as 500 MW of wind installation within ten to 12 years if recently announced plans go ahead. Kenetech Windpower of San Francisco hopes to build 500 MW, partially on public and partially on private land in a gap in the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains.

The scale of the Wyoming proposal is spectacular -- at present there is an estimated 1704 MW of wind plant in California. But the plans are only preliminary. On January 10, a "scoping statement" was published in the Federal Register to alert parties to Kenetech's wish to start the permitting process. Planning permission for the two sites is far from firm, stresses the company's Bud Grebey. "We will not proceed with development of any phases until we have someone to take the power," he says. An application has been submitted with the US Bureau of Land Management for permission to build.

"This is just the very beginning of the process," says BLM spokeswoman Mary Apple. Public hearings will be held starting on February 2 in Rawlins and February 3 in Laramie. There will also be meetings with Native Americans, representatives of other local organisations, media, and state and federal government officials. "Public input is critical for the community," says Grebey. Apple estimates the environmental impact statement will take one year and that turbines would not be in the ground until late 1995.

The project, on about 62,000 acres at Foote Creek Rim and Simpson Ridge in Carbon County, would be built in stages. The first stage would be a 75 MW project, one of two totalling that amount selected a year ago for final contract negotiations by Bonneville Power Administration (Windpower Monthly, March 1993). Negotiations are expected to be finalised in late February or early March, says the BPA's Dulcy Mahar. The utility partners in Kenetech's project are PacifiCorp, Eugene Water and Electric Board and Idaho Power Co. Land for the proposed projects is 28% overseen by the BLM, 62% privately-owned, and 10% state-owned, says Grebey. If fully developed, the projects would use 1390 of the Model 33M-VS variable speed wind turbines.

The capital cost of the two Kenetech projects, announced January 10, will be financed through a limited partnership capitalised with about half debt and half equity, according to the wind company. Twelve-year, non-recourse fixed debt is provided by John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co of Boston. About three-quarters of the limited partnership equity is provided by LG&E Energy Corp of Louisville, Kentucky, and Allstate Project Finance of Northbrook, Illinois. The projects will be managed through a joint partnership of Kenetech and LG&E Power, a subsidiary of LG&E Corp. Allstate Insurance Co is one of the three principal stockholders of Kenetech. John Hancock is a significant institutional investor in Kenetech. And LG&E has 23 power plants in eight states and is a subsidiary of Louisville Gas & Electric Co, a utility in Louisville, Kentucky.

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