RAWLINS — Progress continues in the initial phases of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy and the TransWest Express Transmission projects.
Power Company of Wyoming Communications Director Kara Choquette told Carbon County Commissioners on Tuesday the company’s scope of work for the 2018 year for the wind project includes roads and wind turbine pad infrastructure as well as opening a quarry (subject to the completion of the mining permit application pending with the Wyoming DEQ).
“So far, we have completed over 40 miles of roads and supporting infrastructure,” Choquette said. “We also received a right-of-way grant for phase one of the wind turbine development last fall, so we have been able to get going creating a wind turbine path at the site.”
Choquette said road work is expected to restart when the site and permit conditions allows.
The company plans to move forward with Denver-based Mortenson Construction for the upcoming construction season after deciding to part ways with Oftedal Construction, of Casper, after two successful years.
“Other than the management the workforce will continue to be drawn in the same way,” Choquette said. “We are looking to employ Wyoming people as much as possible and use Wyoming services.”
Choquette said the company expects to employ 60-80 people for the phase of work.
Choquette told the commissioners the Bureau of Land Management completed the Determination of NEPA Adequacy and issued a decision record March 9 that authorizes development of phase 2.
Choquette further told the commissioners the company also plans to work on phase 2, which will involve completing and submitting the plan of development of the wind turbines this summer to the BLM.
“This would be the final piece for site specific environmental analysis,” she said.
Choquette said the company also will be tagging 50 sage grouse to continue gathering data on what types of habitat they use and as part of a before-and-after control impact study.
The actual construction of the wind turbines is expected to begin late 2019-early 2020.
According to Power Company of Wyoming’s website, the project was originally proposed in 2008 and comprises an area of about 219,707-acres of public and private lands 10 miles south of Rawlins.
According to Power Company of Wyoming’s website, the project could produce up to approximately 1,000 turbines and enough clean electricity to power approximately 1 million households. Choquette said the workforce could potentially grow to a maximum estimate of 940 jobs.
TransWest Express Transmission
In a second part of the discussion Tuesday, Choquette told commissioners the company has obtained the record of decision from the Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Forest Service for the TransWest Express Transmission project since her last formal meeting with the commissioners in spring 2017. The project crosses about 19 miles of forest service lands in Utah.
“With those records of decisions that means essentially we have two-thirds of the route secured over the federal land,” she said. “Which is a really big deal for a 730-mile project.”
The company has started working to acquire the necessary easements over state and private lands along the route and to acquire the necessary county and state permits.
“Earlier this year, my colleagues came and met with Sid Fox and his team about the process to apply for a Carbon County Conditional Use Permit for TransWest Express,” she said. “We have also met with the Sweetwater County Planning Department to go through that process as well.”
Choquette said the company also anticipates filing for their Wyoming Industrial Siting Council permit.
Choquette said the project crosses roughly 55 miles of Carbon County land along with the west terminal, located just south of Sinclair and 90 miles total across Wyoming.
“If all goes well,” Choquette said. “We hope we could be in a position to start construction late 2019 or early 2020 on the TransWest project.”
The TransWest Express Transmission, which got underway in development in 2005, is expected to help deliver renewable energy in Wyoming to areas in California, Arizona, and Nevada.
The work on both projects combined has cost the company to date an estimate of more than $100 million.
“That is the permitting, the environmental reviews, the research, the engineering and design,” Choquette said.