Morley Company proposes 300-MW, 130-turbine wind farm project on former nuclear missile site in Cheyenne, Wyoming; nearly US$1B deal could also justify local manufacturing facility for blades
December 14, 2011
– Today, the Cheyenne City Council heard a proposal for a 300 Megawatt wind power project at the City owned Belvoir Ranch six miles west of town. The Morley Company, a successful pioneer in wind power development in Wyoming and the West, presented a plan for the 130 turbine project. The City would receive a minimum of $72 million in direct royalty payments over the approximate 30 year life of the project, plus a substantial increase in the County’s tax base. Air quality benefits would be equal to taking 300,000 cars off the road.
Bruce Morley, representing the project’s proponent, pointed out that although some of the power could be used locally, most of the electricity would be exported. Much of Wyoming’s wealth comes from the export of energy. The state is number one in the country in coal production, number two in natural gas, and although Wyoming now ranks 13th in wind power development, few people living in Wyoming would doubt the terrific potential of the State’s winds. Once Cheyenne taps this potential, the fuel (wind) is free and without depletion.
This fall Governor Mead challenged California to import Wyoming’s low cost wind energy to meet the new requirement that one-third of its power come from renewable resources. California already benefits from low cost coal generated power from Wyoming. Exporting a portion of the project’s power to California could push the City’s net royalties to above $100 million.
Mayor Rick Kaysen said this illustrates the wisdom of the City’s acquisition of the 17,000 acre Belvoir Ranch. Only 1.5% of the total acreage will be required for wind turbines, which can pay for additional recreation development in the scenic “Big Hole” area of the ranch, with a significant surplus left for the City’s coffers. The project should draw national attention, since it converts a former nuclear missile site into a green power project – “Beating swords into plowshares.” The City will not be required to take any financial risk, with funding planned from one of the world’s strongest financing institutions based in Holland and Switzerland.
Six major new transmission upgrades are planned from Wyoming to California, the Southwest and to the Pacific Northwest. Two of these new grids have been fast-tracked by the newly formed Rapid Response Team for Transmission comprised on nine federal agencies.
The Morley Company pointed out that these large new transmission gateways to the west could also benefit Wyoming’s vast natural gas resources by exporting some gas as a “value-added” product, electricity. This could generate five times more revenue to the State than exporting gas as a raw material. Electricity produced from natural gas is the natural companion to wind power. The wind doesn’t always blow here at its blistering extremes (some in Wyoming may disagree) and gas-fired power can be throttled up or down quickly, compensating for the variable nature of the wind power and insuring that the utility has a steady power supply.
At the same time, Mayor Kaysen has been actively courting wind turbine manufacturing to be located in Cheyenne. This one windpower project justifies a manufacturing facility in Cheyenne, particularly for blades, which can be half a football field in length and are extremely expensive to ship from Europe. There is a direct expression of interest from one brand name European manufacturer, with two more close behind. Cheyenne is well suited for wind turbine manufacturing due to its proximity to the high- plains, high development areas, and served by two major railroads and two major Interstate highways.
“The potential of the wind power project combined with the blade factory is of significant importance for Cheyenne and Wyoming. Individually, each project has its own strengths, and combined the projects certainly complement one another. And, when you consider there is no investment by the City and no financial risk it certainly provides distinct benefits for the City.” Kaysen said.
The Morley Company plans exhaustive environmental studies prior to proceeding and has committed to build the project to the highest environmental standards. At first look, the Belvoir Ranch site appears to be relatively well suited for wind power with minimal environmental impacts.
About The Morley Company.
In 1998 The Morley Company originated the first wind project in Wyoming, indeed the first project in the country outside of California. It also originated the first utility scale wind project in the Pacific Northwest and later a 2009 wind project which generates power equal to the consumption of all the households in Portland. It originated a 115 megawatt project near Medicine Bow that is now part of PacifiCorp’s large portfolio of windpower in Wyoming. The Morley Company has been a developer in Wyoming since 1904. Alex Morley was the co-developer of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort with significant support from Governor Mead’s grandfather, former Governor and Senator Cliff Hansen.