Could Wyoming’s Wind Power Quit Blowing?

PacifiCorp flipped the switch on another Wyoming wind farm this month, announcing the 74-turbine, 111-megawatt (MW) Dunlap I plant in Carbon County was now in business. And Duke Energy’s also recently started up its Top of the World project in Converse County. Nevertheless, indications are the wind-power boom in Wyoming is slowing from a gust to barely a whisper.

Wyoming is the nation’s leading coal-producing state, but it’s also the eighth windiest state, according the American Association of Wind Energy. Around 1,000 MW of generating capacity has been built in the past five years. But numerous reports from the region suggest a shifting tax policy and other factors are spelling a slow-down — if not a halt — to new installations.

image via PacifiCorp

Wyoming’s sales tax exemption for commercial wind energy equipment will expire in 2011. A year later, a $1 per megawatt hour wind-generation tax will kick in.  Two of the biggest wind-energy players — PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power and Duke Energy — say they have no new farms planned, and only a couple of other facilities are in the pipeline. A recent report in the state’s Star-Tribune newspaper further echos this concern.

Dunlap 1 brought the number of PacifiCorp-owned operating wind projects in Wymoing to nine, the company said. The company also purchases 100 percent of the output of six operating wind projects owned by others.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.