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Stakeholder group recommends proactive approach to wind and solar development

Solar panels in rural Wyoming
Dan Boyce

Wyoming needs to proactively plan for renewable energy development across Wyoming – that's the message from a broad group of stakeholders that includes conservationists, industry representatives, ranchers, utilities and others.

Wind and solar developments can affect everything from an area's viewshed to its wildlife. But solar panels and wind turbines are growing more common across the state as the world seeks greener sources of energy, and as energy firms notice Wyoming’s wide open spaces.

John Burrows of the Wyoming Outdoor Council said those developments bring both great opportunities and real challenges.

"We need to be having these conversations proactively about siting and permitting renewables as a state, as opposed to simply reacting when projects happen that might have unintended consequences," he said.

To kickstart those conversations, the Renewable Energy Siting Collaborative brought together various stakeholder groups – from ranchers to conservationists, industry reps, and county governments. They met nine times throughout the past calendar year, developing recommendations for state leaders.

The group recommends that Wyoming encourage renewable development as part of its pro-business stance. Their recommendations call for greater collaboration, periodic reviews of the current regulations, and respect for private property rights.

Other recommendations include streamlining the permitting process, increased communication with stakeholders, and the consideration of "brownfields" for wind and solar farms – allowing development on land that has already been disturbed by other development.

The group published these recommendations last week, hoping that legislators and policymakers will take note.

"The next step, I think, is really about engaging the decision-makers and policymakers to make them more specific," Burrows said. "And at least make the recommendations here that seem most ripe for policy action and consideration."

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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