Bondurant wind turbine-solar panel proposal hearings Sept. 1 & 6
View of the Enercrest windmill south of Big Piney. This windmill is 67.5 feet high, 23.5 feet higher than the proposed windmills in Bondurant. The windmills proposed in Bondurant are 38 feet tall with 6 foot long blades. Photo by Bart Myers, Sublette County Planning Director.
Approach view of Enercrest windmill
View from highway approaching the Enercrest windmill. The proposed Lower Valley Energy windmills would be 23.5 feet shorter than this windmill. Photo by Bart Myers, Sublette County Planning Director.
Site Plan (modified)
Lower Valley Energy site plan (color enhanced and text modified by Pinedale Online).
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
Original post August 25, 2011 | Updated August 30, 2011
Update 8/30/11: According to Sublette County Planning and Zoning Department Planning Director, Bart Myers, Lower Valley Energy has withdrawn their request for a height variance for four windmills in the Bondurant area. " Lower Valley still plans to move forward with the project, but the wind turbines will be redesigned to meet 25 foot height limitation for the Highway Commercial zoning district – thereby eliminating the need for the height variance," Myers said on Tuesday, August 30th. Click here for more information on this story: Bondurant wind turbine-solar panel proposal hearings Sept. 1 & 6 (Pinedale Online, August 25, 2011)
Original post 8/25/11:
On Thursday, September 1st, the Sublette County Planning & Zoning Commission will consider a request from Lower Valley Energy for a height variance to place four 45-foot wind turbines and 96 solar panels on the River Ranch (Ordway) property near the Bondurant Post Office.
Lower Valley Energy is the supplier of electrical power to the Bondurant area. The Bondurant area is susceptible to voltage drops and power outages due to the closest substation being located at Hoback Junction. Lower Valley Energy would like to construct a wind and solar generation facility in the Bondurant area to provide supplemental power during voltage drops. The facility will also include a small structure to house weather sensitive equipment, including the batteries associated with the use. All electric lines associated with the facility will be underground and in conduit. Lines will go from a transformer to a pole in order to feed electricity to the area and these lines will also be housed in conduit. This facility is not a high voltage station and the transformer associated with the facility is similar to a standard residential transformer.
The proposed wind/solar generation facility is planned for the portion of the Riverbend Ranch property which is developed with the Bondurant Post Office and Branding Iron Café. The portion of the Riverbend Ranch property containing the post office and café is approximately three acres in size and is zoned Highway Commercial. The wind and solar generating facility will occupy 14,400 square feet of the three acre commercial portion of Riverbend Ranch. The applicant for this proposal is Lower Valley Energy, not Riverbend Ranch.
According to the Sublette County Planning & Zoning Staff Report, the maximum allowable building height in the Highway Commercial zoning district is 25 feet. With the four wind turbines proposed being 45 feet when the blades are at their apex, Lower Valley Energy is seeking variance approval to allow the four wind turbines to be constructed at 45 feet. The Sublette County Zoning and Development Regulations have been interpreted to allow this type of utility use as an authorized use in all zoning districts, making the only approval necessary the height variance for the wind turbines.
In reviewing this proposal, the first question from the Sublette County Planning & Zoning staff was why not move the facility off the Highway Commercial portion of the Riverbend Ranch property, as the remainder of the ranch is zoned Agricultural with a maximum allowable height of 60 feet. Having the facility on the Agriculturally-zoned portion of the property would eliminate the need for the variance.
With the exception of the three acres of Highway Commercial zoning, the remainder of the ranch is in a conservation easement which prohibits the facility proposed. Additionally, the location of the facility is at the mouth of the Upper Hoback Canyon, providing optimal wind generating capability in the Bondurant area. The facility can be easily tied into the electric grid serving the Bondurant area.
According to the Staff Report, there are no environmental features or environmental considerations which would apply to this proposal. The Wyoming Game and Fish was provided the opportunity and offered comments on the proposed variance and indicated they had no wildlife related comments to offer.
Stan Zierlein, Assistant Fire Marshall and Water Wise Superintendant, responded with some public safety comments on behalf of the Fire Board. Zierlein said that with the Lower Valley Energy facility being in close proximity to the post office and café there is the danger of children playing on the solar panels or throwing rocks and damaging the panels. Zierlein said he could only support this proposal if the entire facility is fenced.
The land owner will not allow the facility to be fenced, as fencing would interfere with snow removal at the post office. The Staff Report said that while fencing may keep children or others from directly accessing the facility, it would not prevent rocks from being thrown at the panels unless it was an extremely high solid fence. The Staff Report stated Lower Valley Energy’s representative is not concerned about public safety, as this is a low voltage generating facility with a building to be constructed to house sensitive equipment. Trespassing and vandalism have not been issues at similar facilities.
The application was provided to the Sublette County Sheriff’s Department, County Weed and Pest, County Sanitarian, County Conservation District, County Road and Bridge Department, County Rural Health Care District, Sublette County Chamber of Commerce, Sublette Economic Resource Council and Sublette County School District #1. As of the date of the Staff Report, no comments had been received from these agencies.
The application was published as a legal advertisement in the Sublette Examiner newspaper and sent to all neighboring property owners within a 1,000 foot radius of the subject property. Several comments were received from nearby Bondurant residents opposed to the proposal citing objections to the visual impact, concerns about birds and big game wildlife, noise, increased traffic, and adverse impacts on their property values.
Sublette County Planning Director, Bart Myers, said the towers for the wind turbines are 38 feet in height and the blades are 6 feet long. "…at the lowest point the blade will be 32 feet from the ground. For perspective the power poles in front of the post office and café are 35 feet in height. The turbines are similar to the wind turbine "variance" that was approved for Enercrest in 2007 – that turbine is 67.5 feet in height," Myers wrote. (The wind turbine at the former Enercrest building is about 2 miles south of Big Piney.)
The Planning & Zoning meeting will be in the Commissioner’s meeting room of the Sublette County Courthouse on Thursday, September 1st at 6:30PM.
The proposal will go in front of the Sublette County Commissioners for consideration on Tuesday, September 6th at 1:00 PM.
Click on the links below for related documents:
Sublette County Planning & Zoning Staff Report (PDF)
Site Plan (PDF)