Here in the Cowboy State, the energy industry accounts for roughly 60 percent of annual revenue.
Of that 60 percent – and I do realize I’m preaching to the choir – finite resources such as coal and oil account for the big-ticket items.
This is why, on Wednesday, during the Wyoming Energy Summit in Laramie, Gov. Mead and revered energy journalist Robert Bryce conveyed the importance of utilizing these fats of the land.
In a nut shell, the two gentlemen advocated innovative ways to prevent large scale CO2 emissions from eroding the earth’s O-Zone layer, while continuing to strengthen the state’s nation-leading coal market.
They also highlighted the benefits of what’s called the “Shale Revolution,” which are methods of extracting oil and natural gas from underneath the earth’s surface using hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling.
Of course, keeping jobs and money in mind, this all makes sense. However, what didn’t make a lick of sense to me is that nowhere found in their rigmaroles was any sort of positive rhetoric for renewable energy.
At one point, Bryce said: “If you are anti-carbon dioxide and anti-nuclear, you are pro-blackout.”
He was alluding to the devastating black outs caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, which, according to him, was seemingly caused by a faltering in the island’s solar panel energy system.
Leaving the whole “global warming” argument alone, I’ll give him the nod and agree that perhaps he’s right. But, again, what’s the saying – “There are two sides to every story?”
And to add insult to injury, Bryce stated that “installation of solar panels is often cost-prohibitive for poorer individuals, communities and countries.”
Again, that may be true; however, isn’t Puerto Rico a territory of the US – the most powerful, richest country in the world?
Not to mention, it’s not like you see solar panels being erected on the rooftops of South Side Chicago, a coal/nuclear-powered neighborhood in which suffers from a 70 percent unemployment rate amongst youth, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But I’ve digressed.
The point is, it’s unfair pigeonhole renewable energy sources as unreliable while simultaneously suggesting that it’s unmodern and a pervasive element of indigent communities.
I mean, you look at Venezuela, a country with the largest oil deposit in the entire world, and they still deal with a 7.3 percent unemployment rate and, of course, constant civil upheaval.
Sounds pretty “modern” to me.
So, you ask, what does any of my incoherent gibberish have to do with Carbon County? Well, let’s take a look at all the massive wind farm projects planned for this area alone.
Three major behemoths come to mind.
First, already in the works is the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which is set to erect 1,000 wind turbines south of Rawlins and Sinclair. And guess what? That’s a $5 billion project.
You know what else is a $5 billion project? The establishment of the second headquarters for Amazon, the largest internet retailer in the world.
Once complete, according to Cindy Wallace of the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation, the project will be “the largest in North America.”
“This will place Carbon County on the map,” said Wallace.
Thus far, after 10 years of cutting through red tape, subcontracted construction companies have been recently working on roadway developments within the county, which will, of course, eventually accommodate all the tax revenue accumulating wind turbines.
Next, we have the TB Flats and Ekola Flats wind energy projects.
Though slightly smaller in scale, according to Invenergy, the head company attached to this project, “The Ekola Flats Wind Energy Project is expected to generate an estimated $10-14 million in sales taxes alone through construction, and annual property taxes starting at an estimated $2.2 million in 2021.”
And for TB Flats, its anticipated project investment is $790 million.
Finally, there’s Viridis Eolia LLC, a Wyoming corporation which aims to erect another $3.2 billion wind farm within the county.
So let’s do the math. $3.2 billion plus $5 billion plus $790 million plus whatever Ekola Flats is worth (I couldn’t find exact number out of sheer laziness), and for the sake of the argument, let’s just say that equates to a cool $10 billion in projected total cost for these projects combined.
Let me repeat: $10 billion.
If all goes according to plan, the wind energy projects would make Wyoming second in the wind industry, next to Texas. According to Wallace, it would increase the entire state’s 1,489 megawatts to about 7,500.
With that, it’ll spark more jobs, incoming ancillary businesses, increases in commerce, property value upticks, Alaskan King Crab legs included in school lunches and maybe your car won’t have to take a nosedive into to craterous potholes interspersed throughout these Rawlins city streets.
Correct me if I’m wrong – and I’m not trying to defame the coal and gas industry by any means – but these alternative energy projects sound pretty modernistic to me.
Oh yeah, did I mention $10 billion already?