Laramie sees a lot of wind, but it’s about to see a lot more wind politics. The University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economy and Public Policy and the Ruckelshaus Institute are hosting a wind conference next week called Wyoming’s Wind Energy Future.
The free event will host dozens of speakers discussing the many views about wind energy, which has had a rocky history in the state. University of Wyoming economist Rob Godby helped create the event, and he said it’s designed to start the conversation about wind policies.
“I think the worst possible policy is no policy," he said.
Godby said the state has little policy planning for a wind boom, which could happen in coming years. He said seriously proposed wind farms in the state could increase the state’s produced wind energy by 6 times.
“And so we need to decide what we want to see happen. That could be absolutely no development if that’s the state preference. But if it’s not, then we should really talk about how we would like to see that development managed," he said.
Godby said that renewable energies are growing, whether or not Wyoming participates. If the state does want to use wind to diversify the state's economy and drive economic growth, he said it needs to figure out how to keep Wyoming's wind competitive as turbine technology improves and other states are able to start hosting major wind farms.
"There are currently over 10,000 megawatts of seriously proposed new wind development in the state," he said. "That’s about $16 billion of new investment in the state. There’s no other sector that’s looking at anything close to that kind of investment in the state."
While some of those projects may not become a reality, he said even half of that would be a big deal for a state that's been struggling with the budget.
"Tax revenues are way down. We’re trying to find new ways to create revenues. You don’t have to do that just by raising taxes on things. Another thing you could do is just increase the amount of economic activity that occurs here," he said.
The free conference will be at the Gateway Center in Laramie on Monday and Tuesday. For an agenda and to register, go to the University of Wyoming’s website.