A new wind energy project planned for Converse County has been given the green light by state regulators and construction is expected to begin next month.

The Wyoming Industrial Siting Council on June 28 approved the construction permit for the Cedar Springs Wind Energy Project. The project, expected to include up to 160 turbines depending on the technology selected, will produce roughly 400 megawatts of electricity.

Located on over 71,000 acres of private and state land some 10 miles north of Douglas, the project should be completed by the end of 2020, according to the permit application.

Construction manpower is expected to peak at 265 workers in July 2020, but will average 125 workers over the 17-month construction period. Of that average figure, 37 workers will likely come from the local workforce within commuting distance while 88 would temporarily relocate to the area.

The project is expected to create 68 direct and secondary jobs this year and 229 such jobs in 2020.

Converse County is expected to see 16 new permanent full-time jobs annually as a result of the project, with roughly 34 secondary full-time positions created as well.

Ownership of the project's energy-generating capacity will be split evenly between PacifiCorp, which operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming, and NextEra Energy Resources, LLC.

Converse County will receive an estimated $48 million in property taxes over the life of the project, beginning with roughly $729,000 due next year followed by $2.97 million for the first full year of operations. Sales and use tax revenues resulting from the project could total some $24 million over the construction period.

The expected impact to wildlife would include bird deaths. The application cites a 2004 study which showed an average of 2.3 bird deaths per turbine annually nationwide.

"Overall bird fatality rates in western North America have ranged from 0.16 to 8.3 birds [annually per megawatt of electricity produced] and averaged 2.59 birds/MW/year," the application states. "A publication that examined effects of collision mortality from buildings and communication towers found that although millions of birds are killed every year in North America by collisions with manmade structures, this source of mortality has had no discernible effect on [avian] populations."

The fatality rates for bats at the new wind farm are expected to be similar to rates at other wind projects in the region.

Converse and Natrona Counties will receive impact assistance payments from the state in order to offset local effects of the project in areas such as infrastructure, law enforcement and medical services. Of the roughly $8 million, two-thirds will go to Converse County, with Natrona County receiving the remaining one-third.

The developers say the project was proposed due to an opportune combination of factors specific to the county and the currents state of the larger wind energy industry. According to the application, Converse County sits in an area with some of the highest accessible wind speeds in the United States.

"By capturing this available wind resource, generated electricity can be delivered both to Wyoming customers and to the larger Intermountain West, positioning it as one of the least expensive, and therefore most desirable, sources of new power in the region," the application states. It goes on to praise the "clear and fair regulatory environment" in the county.

The company states that wind energy is now the least expensive source of new power in many parts of the country, with increasingly efficient turbines generating additional power with smaller impact areas.

"Utility customers, both individuals and commercial and industrial users, are demanding clean, renewable energy," the application states. "Converse County and Wyoming as a whole have a unique opportunity to serve this demand and thereby create both temporary and long-term jobs in the county and generate significant, consistent, long-term tax revenue through sales taxes, property taxes, and wind energy production taxes to help support State and county goals and leverage even further economic development."

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