CASPER, Wyo. — A Cedar Springs Wind Energy Project set to add 160 wind turbines north of Douglas has an estimated cost of about $490 million.
That’s just for one phase of NextEra Energy’s plans. The Natrona County government, along with cities and towns in the county can expect to receive some funding to offset impacts to the community from that project.
NextEra says construction is expected to begin in the fall.
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The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s Industrial Siting Council distributes funding to offset impacts when projects are greater than $213 million, though oil and gas projects are exempted from these industrial siting rules.
Natrona County Commissioner Forrest Chadwick says that a later phase of the project plans to add an additional 48 turbines, with a project cost of about $192 million.
Chadwick said he is unsure whether the Industrial Siting Council will view that phase as a separate project, so it is unclear whether the local governments can expect to see funds to offset impacts from that phase.
The Industrial Siting Council is estimating that about $10.9 million will be provided to all counties and towns impacted.
Chadwick said that Converse and Natrona County have been in dispute over how much of this should be made available to their respective governments.
“Converse said there will be no impacts [to Natrona County],” Chadwick told the City-County Board of Health on Thursday, June 20.
But the Industrial Siting Council is saying that Natrona County entities will be granted 37% of the $10.9 million, according to Chadwick.
The City of Casper can anticipate about $1.08 million and Natrona County $1.05 million, he added.
However, the Industrial Siting Council will withhold 25% of those amounts for unanticipated impacts so Casper will get about $810,000 and Natrona County about $787,500.
These unanticipated impacts are one of the reasons Chadwick raised this issue with the health board.
NextEra is expecting that the project will see a peak workforce of about 250 people in July 2020. Project Director Ryan Fitzpatrick has said that some of this workforce is likely to stay in Casper.
Chadwick said that for each of those workers, about four individuals in the private sector are needed to support them.
Therefore, entities like the Casper-Natrona Health Department could see increased demand for services, which Chadwick said may be difficult to quantify but may also include some unanticipated impacts.
He gave an example of the health department needing to provide flu or other vaccinations.
Chadwick said the commissioners are talking about providing $150,000 to the Health Department, which he said they’d be able to use however they see fit.
He said they’ll also provide some of the industrial siting funding to the Casper Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, also known as Visit Casper, due to anticipated impacts to lodging.
Chadwick said that once an individual has stayed for more than 30 days, they are exempt from the lodging tax. Since Visit Casper gets its funding from the lodging tax, if hotel space is occupied by people exempt from this tax, they’d see impacts to their revenue from the wind energy project.
But it is not only the Cedar Springs project which Chadwick expects will impact Natrona.
He said that a Roundhouse Renewable Energy, LLC. project near Cheyenne is also impacting 6-Mile Road in Natrona County due to the weight of project material being transported there.
Chadwick said that TP&L Management Solutions was awarded the transportation contract on the 98-turbine Roundhouse project.
He said TP&L also received a contract to conduct transportation during the NextEra project which will also have impact on Natrona County roads.
Furthermore, Chadwick said that while delivery will originate in Natrona County, related sales tax will only be paid in Converse.
“So once again, we did kind of get stuck in between,” said Chadwick.