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Albany County tables decision on 32,000-acre Rock Creek wind farm

 The first slide from an Invenergy presentation to the Albany County Commissioners, showing a worker atop a wind turbine.

A massive wind farm planned for Albany County is one step closer to approval.

The Albany County Commissioners accepted an application for the Rock Creek Wind Farm during a meeting Tuesday, but delayed a final decision to allow more time for consideration.

The Rock Creek project would install around 114 turbines on 32,600 acres of land northwest of Laramie. The project would stretch over into Carbon County, where another 15 turbines have already been approved by the county commissioners there.

Just a few months ago, the Albany County Commissioners approved another, slightly smaller, wind farm for the south of the county. The Rail Tie Wind Project involved a long, bitter fight between opponents and supporters of the project’s construction.

The Rock Creek project would be built in a less populated area and has not inspired as much opposition. It would be situated next to a number of other wind farms in Albany and Carbon County.

Chase Marston of Invenergy — the renewable energy company seeking to build the Rock Creek Wind Farm — addressed commissioners during their meeting Tuesday.

"There is an energy demand around the country and here in Wyoming there is an abundance of the natural resources for that energy," Marston said. "There is also the available transmission capacity. There is also an ability to site in very rural areas so the impact is minimal both to the communities and to the wildlife in any conflicts we would have there."

Commissioners could have approved the project Tuesday, but chose to table their decision until a future meeting sometime in the next 45 days. Chairman Pete Gosar wanted more time to consider details from the project's representatives.

"I think these projects are always uncertain when they come to the county commission and I think our regulation needs to be tightened quite honestly and we're working on that, but I also think the process is a bit weird," Gosar said. "There’s a proposed project that I suspect you guys would like me to sign off on today, but it's just that, it's not a final project. It's a proposed project. And I have some consternation about that."

Commissioner Heber Richardson disagreed, saying he was ready to sign off on the project and that there was no need or use for waiting.

"It's a process with increments," Richardson said. "I think it's unreasonable for this commission to say, 'you have to satisfy all these things before you come back to us,' because there are so many moving parts. This is part of the process. I don't think we'll learn anything new if we exhaust the timeline. To me, the application is complete and the questions have been answered."

But Richardson was outvoted and the decision was delayed.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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