Iowa Public Television


Wyoming Faces War of the Winds

posted on August 28, 2009

GLENROCK, Wyo. (AP) - Richard Grant Jr.'s family has ranched Wyoming's rugged granite-and-grass hills for generations, their 123-year-old ranch dotted with reminders of their long history - an historic schoolhouse, an old red barn and the parcels of land sold away during hard times.

But it wasn't until a few years ago that a radical prospect blew in with the stiff winds that sweep the ridge tops of the northern Laramie Range: wind turbines.

Grant welcomes the chance to get into wind energy development and generate some income. His courting of wind developers however has put him at odds with some of his neighbors, who consider a large-scale wind farm to be the industrialization of their backyards in the sparsely populated region.

"My goal is to stay in ag (agriculture), be able to pass on our generations of history," he said. "This gives us that opportunity."

As the nation's demand for renewable energy grows, landowners and governments across the West are wrestling with how to balance their cherished private property rights against the far-reaching visual impact of 400-foot-tall wind turbines and the transmission lines needed to move power to distant cities.

Grant said he's been in negotiations for six months with Wasatch Wind, of Heber City, Utah, to lease his ranch for possible wind farm development. A representative of Wasatch said the company is in the early stages of studying the area for a possible wind farm.

Some of Grant's neighbors are having none of it. They formed the Northern Laramie Range Alliance this spring to fight industrial-scale wind development in their namesake mountains and a segment of a proposed transmission line that would cut across the range.

Kenneth G. Lay, a founder of the group, said its members aren't opposed to industrial scale wind development in places such as Wyoming's eastern plains, where landowners are actively marketing their land to wind developers. But the group doesn't want a big wind farm in an area it describes as "scenic, multiple-use landscapes."

The group is also concerned about developers quietly negotiating with individual landowners.


Tags: agriculture news wind wind power Wyoming