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Salazar Announces Approval of 3-GW Wind Farm in Wyoming

For a state so often associated with cowboys and so evocative of "old west" imagery, Wyoming has a surprisingly progressive record. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote. And on October 9 of this year, Wyoming became the future home to what could end up becoming the biggest wind power farm the world has ever seen.

In a visit to the state capital of Cheyenne, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave the official green light for the construction of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, a proposed wind farm to be located in a 350 square mile area near the towns of Sinclair and Rawlins in Carbon County, Wyoming. The proposal for construction of the wind farm was submitted in 2008 by Power Company of Wyoming LLC, and will include 1,000 wind turbines capable of generating enough electricity to power approximately 1 million homes. Once constructed and in full swing operation, the wind farm will have the capacity to generate between 2 to 3 GW (gigawatts) of electricity.

In addition to providing clean energy generation on a massive scale, the approval of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project will also bring jobs to south central Wyoming. It’s estimated that construction of the wind farm will create as many as 1,000 jobs over time, although it’s likely that number will be spread out over the course of three years as 300 to 400 wind turbines are constructed per year. Once construction is complete, there will be 114 permanent jobs created for general operations and maintenance. 

Salazar was quick to point out this additional benefit, citing “tens of thousands of jobs now being created by wind energy” throughout the country. The approval of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project marks completion of a goal set by the Obama administration in 2009 to authorize 10,000 MW of renewable energy on public land. 

“Wyoming has some of the best wind energy resources in the world,” Salazar said, “and there’s no doubt that this project has the potential to be a landmark example for the nation. President Obama challenged us in his State of the Union address to authorize 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy on our public lands by the end of the year – enough to meet the needs of more than 3 million homes – and today we are making good on that promise.” 

With Salazar’s official stamp of approval, the next step in development will be for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to begin environmental analysis for construction of the proposed wind farms, a 230 kilovolt transmission line, a rail distribution facility, substations for connection to the electric grid, and the laying of the roads necessary to make it all happen. Initial groundbreaking is set to begin sometime in 2013, with the actual installation of wind turbines to follow beginning in 2014.

Lead image: Wyoming flag via Shutterstock

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Vince Font is a freelance journalist specializing in the fields of renewable energy, high tech, travel, and entertainment. Read his blog at www.vincefont.com or follow him on Twitter @vincefont.

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