Landowners tour wind farmWritten by Jennifer Womack
Glenrock – Central and southeast Wyoming landowners in various stages of forming wind energy associations toured one of Wyoming’s newest wind farms near Glenrock on Oct. 20. Douglas rancher Terry Henderson organized the event that was sponsored by the Southeast Wyoming Resource Conservation and Development Council.
Laine Anderson, Rocky Mountain Power’s Project Manager for Construction and Development, served as tour guide of the over 700-acre development. The soon to be 158 wind turbines cover a portion of the 14,000 acres surrounding and including the reclaimed coal mine that formerly supplied coal to nearby Dave Johnson Power Plant. Although state, private and federal land lies adjacent to the property, Anderson said the turbines being constructed by Rocky Mountain Power are all on the company’s property.
With construction underway the area is now laced with roads and construction pads, much of which Anderson said will be reclaimed. Normally leased out for grazing, Anderson said the lease was not issued this year but will likely become available again in a year’s time.
Southeast Wyoming Resource Conservation and Development Coordinator Grant Stumbough said the tour provided landowners considering development a chance to see a project in the construction phase. It was a scenario he said provided them a real life glimpse of what they might see on their own property if successful in leasing their wind rights.
Meteorological towers were in place throughout the time the facility served as a coal mine, but seven geared toward the project were added about a year ago. When asked if planning and construction for the wind project began prior to additional data, Anderson joked that they did have about 58 years worth of data relating to the coal miners complaining about the wind. Noting a 33 to 34 percent wind capacity factor, Anderson said the turbines would produce at full capacity 33 to 34 percent of the time.
When finished by Dec. 31 of this year, Anderson said the site will generate enough power to fulfill the annual electricity needs of about 66,000 homes. Constructed using 1.5 MW General Electric turbines, he said higher production towers are now available but haven’t become the industry standard. Throughout construction around 300 people are working at the site with 12 to 15 to be employed for long-term maintenance. Anderson said the site is 10 miles across from north to south and ranges from a mile to two miles across from east to west.
Turbines are spaced at approximately 600 feet, but vary as a result of topography. The towers are 260 feet tall with a blade diameter of 250 feet. They rotate approximately 18 to 22 times per minute. When finished, each will include a 16-foot apron of gravel at the base. Anderson estimated that the turbines occupy 10 to 12 acres of the wind farm with roads occupying about 90 percent of the disturbed area. Some of those roads will be removed following the construction phase. Roads throughout the project are now 40 feet wide, but will be reclaimed back to 20 feet.
In areas of the development where coal mining occurred Anderson said special foundations are being built. The project has 32 special foundations that are located over the mine spoils and the other 126 foundations are the standard spread footer type. With pipe pounded down to the bedrock with about two feet protruding Anderson explained that the foundation is then built on top of that piece and connected with rebar. Each foundation uses about 300 yards of concrete much of which is mixed on a site at a batch plant that can put out 900 to 1,000 yards of concrete per day.
Underground cables, surrounded by special soil in some areas to reduce heat, gather the electricity produced by the turbines. It is then transferred to a substation adjacent to the nearby Dave Johnson Power Plant for distribution on the electrical grid.
“Ninety-four are in the air now,” said Anderson of the turbines, noting that work constructing the project began March 1, 2008. The first portion of the turbines will begin running Nov. 1, 2008. While construction of one turbine alone might take a month and a half the streamlined approach underway at the wind farm enhances the project’s efficiency. Turbines in various stages of construction can now be seen.
Those wishing to see the new Glenrock wind farm can view a great deal of it from the 55 Ranch Road north of Glenrock. The wind farm itself is on private Rocky Mountain Power property and can’t be accessed unless visiting as part of a tour group or by making prior arrangements. Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.