This image produced by Albany County for Smart Energy Development simulates what the project will look like from Highway 287 looking north toward Laramie. (Paul Montoya/ Albany County for Smart Energy Development)

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘til it’s gone”
– Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi (1970)

Albany County soon may learn exactly what singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell meant when she penned these words 50 years ago. 

If nothing is done, within a year heavy equipment will begin widening and straightening Cherokee Park and Monument Roads along the Highway 287 corridor and adding about 52 miles of new roads. Eighteen-wheelers will climb the slope into the Sherman Hills toward Vedauwoo at Interstate 80 carrying shafts, nacelles and blades for 120 wind turbines, each more than 590 feet tall. Excavation and blasting will commence, leading to the pouring of thousands of tons of concrete for an industrial facility spread across a 26,000-acre “project area.”

Quantum Energy Partners, a Texas oil and gas private equity firm, is promoting this wind project, known as Rail Tie for the small community it will be developed near. Quantum has allocated a share of its 2018 Quantum Energy Partners VII fund to the Rail Tie project through a “clean energy” vehicle called 547Energy and its subsidiary, ConnectGEN.  

Investors in the Quantum Partners VII fund should be worried: According to Quantum’s ConnectGEN website, so far there’s not yet a customer for energy that might be produced by the Rail Tie wind project. Electricity markets in the West are saturated with four times the supply over demand, as the Wyoming Legislature recently heard from Kara Choquette, a representative of the Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind project near Rawlins.  

History, too, suggests the Rail Tie project may be a disaster for Quantum investors: In 2014, Shell Wind Energy abandoned what was then called the “Hermosa West” project at the same location. One could surmise that even with less opposition seven years ago, Shell correctly concluded that wind development in this location was not in its nor its shareholders’ best interests.

All of this, of course, offers hope for Albany County: With any luck, and if Quantum is true to the interests of its investors, it will close down the Rail Tie development and deploy investors’ capital in more productive efforts. 

So far, though, Quantum seems to be pursuing this development aggressively, and with potentially disastrous immediate and long-term impacts on Wyoming’s open spaces, wildlife and economy.

Sadly, local and state officials seem to be supporting Quantum’s efforts. After initially declining ConnectGen’s application to lease state land for the Rail Tie project, the State Board of Land Commissioners reversed itself and approved the lease. 

Astonishingly, existing state wind leases (per the SBLC website) have produced all of $12 per acre per year. 

The rest of this proposed project will be on private land, where a handful of our fellow citizens, who for the most part do not live on the land leased for wind energy production, hope to be cashing royalty checks for a slight percentage of the value of the generated energy. All while trashing the property rights of their many neighbors and the habitat of the elk, mule deer, pronghorn, raptors and other area wildlife. Ironically, industrializing this area does not change the tax yield; the state lands will still be taxed as ranch land (a pittance compared to industrial tax), even though the use will change to industrial.

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Not surprisingly this project has been met with determined resistance from local residents. The group Albany County for Smart Energy Development — of which I am a member — has filed an appeal of the state’s lease approval. ACSED is geared up to fight this project passionately and for the long term. 

Our group is disappointed in the SBLC’s reconsideration and decision change, and believes that an industrial facility is incompatible in this location due to the county’s existing plans. Albany County’s Comprehensive Plan designated this area as a “Priority Growth Area” which has been used as a necessary incentive to attract business professionals and University of Wyoming professors for over a decade. 

Industrializing this area will have harmful impacts over the short- and long-term on community growth, economic recruitment, wildlife and other natural and cultural resources, including the Ames Monument, listed on the National Register of Historical Places. 

The Laramie Basin in Albany County shouldn’t be sacrificed to the royalty-check ambitions of a handful of our landowners and their government-subsidized wind-energy paymasters. The county should encourage wind development in wind-friendly plains landscapes and keep it out of areas in which it will have such huge negative impacts on the environment and our community.

Otherwise, we might learn firsthand the hard lesson that “we don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” 

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  1. I would love to see and have wind and solar projects in and around my property in Wyoming. As would any intelligent person in fact. It would also as a side benefit increase my property value. the downside is that it gives the county yet another excuse to increase my property taxes.

  2. I see both sides of this argument. I do live within a few miles of the Rail Tie Project and will see and possibly hear the turbines in question. At first I could see little benefit to anyone living near the Rail Tie Project. However one of my neighbors made a valid point. If the turbines are not built, how long before a housing development is put up. More people using the roads, tapping the water table, and installing lights that will be much worse than the blinking red lights on the turbines. With the setbacks of wind turbines the 26,000 or so acres it sits in will be pretty much left alone for the next 35 years at least. The fact that we can help the landowners keep their ranches and provide clean energy for a few hundred thousand people is a bonus for all of us. It might help keep our property taxes a little more in check as well.

  3. Firstly, I love WyoFile! Secondly, a few points: If you purchased your home or land based on the assumption that it had a great view and therefore was a future gold mine, TOO BAD! You made a bad investment decision, just like lots of people do, have done, and will do in the future! It is not society’s job to recompense you for bad investment decisions, it’s your tough luck! You don’t have a right to a view, and arguing that you do is futile, so get over yourselves! Thirdly, the benefits to the county and state greatly outweigh the (perceived) losses to the landowners presumably harmed by this project! Their transparent and specious claims to the contrary are simply masking fear of losing investment value. Sorry, not sorry. The world moves on and we all have to change with it, despite the desire to insulate yourself from it by moving to WY.

  4. I think it’s a good opinion piece on a project that will have an impact on this person’s backyard. I don’t like it when it happens to me either (pipelines through my farm where my mom lives). I think Wyoming is a state that lives on exports of raw materials and it’s been that way for a long time. Cattle, coal, oil, electricity. It’s all kind of the same and none of them are particularly pretty or environmentally helpful to those who live in Wyoming. It would be nice if those kinds of things could be done in a way that doesn’t scar the state. I think the state is probably doing the best it can but has never been able to attract industries that are clean and aesthetically pleasing. Nobody likes sewage treatment or coal extraction but they need to happen in today’s world so somebody suffers. It’s really too bad.
    PS I believe in global warming and I support green energy. I also support proper compensation for those who have their land condemned for government purposes. I’ve always thought that condemnation should consider the losses to surrounding neighbors. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon though.

  5. What was the purpose of the Choke Cherry Sierra Madre rep saying there is already 4 x the supply of wind energy (with no place to go) Are they in opposition ?
    Does the Choke Cherry Sierra Madre even have contracts to purchase it on the other end ? (Las Vegas & So, CA. – as of 2017 there were not.)

    We’re on the receiving end in NW Colorado of the massive transmission line projects “the grid of the future” to “rewire the west” to take WY wind farm energy to the other (mostly blue) States. No electricity benefit and less than 1 million in revenue but only AFTER the lines are operational.

    Bill Gates even say’s natural gas which is cheap and plentiful (and nuclear in the right location) is the way to go, that renewables need 10 – 25 more years of R&D.

    This is all a multi-billionaire boondoggle at the expense of everyone and everything.

  6. Has anyone ever asked who benefits from these wind turbines? Well not Wyoming. We don’t, the energy is not for us. We only get the cost, the waste, the eye sore and the environmental effect. The energy goes to other states that don’t want these ugly monstrosities “in their back yards “.
    So ask yourself why are those pushing this pushing it? Money has crossed many palms to grease the way. Their concern is not Wyoming but their pocket book.

  7. Thank your for this well thought out and informative article Jennifer.

    For those that think an industrial wind facility belongs wherever the greedy electricity peddlers want it, why don’t you buy a property within the distance of the 600′ tall turbine that will disturb your sleep with the noise and shadow flicker, cause your animals to abort their fetuses and drive down your property value? There is a reason why this project should be somewhere with less nearby homes.

    Do you know why Connect Gen is NOT putting this project somewhere like northern Albany County where there are very few homes? They don’t want to spend the money to add the transmission line because they won’t get a federal tax credit for that portion. They could locate the project in a much better suited environment, but won’t because of greed, plain and simple. The view from Vedauwoo State Park will be filled with turbines, as will the view from the astounding national monument built at the high point of the first transcontinental railroad to honor the Ames Brothers.

    The Albany County for Smart Energy Development group is not against appropriate renewal energy, it just needs to have the proper setbacks to existing homes, state parks and national monuments. We can’t sell short our heritage for greed.

  8. Another NIMBY. The government has bankrupted coal, is starting the process to bankrupt oil & gas, just where do you think energy is going to come from after that? What’s going to power that big screen, cell phone, computer, ipad, that 6,000 square foot house and that plug in clean electric car? The wind blow in Albany County – compare the amount of time I-80 is open vs closed in January – March. Sounds like an ideal place for wind turbines.

    Everybody wants this so called clean energy, as long as its not in their backyard.. Hate to tell you all, it ain’t as clean and environmentally friendly as you all think.

    1. Well said. Just because you live in a “scenic” area of Wyoming shouldn’t make you exempt from these bird killing, noise vibrating eye sores. Those of us who live in the desolate plains areas of Wyoming don’t want turbines either!

  9. Geoff’s idea of compensating neighbors for property devaluation is a good one. In the eastern and midwestern part of the US, more and more local governments are requiring Property Value Guarantees (PVGs) as part of their permitting process (cities in at least New York, North Carolina, Illinois, and the entire states of Maine and New Hampshire). Wind companies say they do not affect property values, and if indeed that is the case, then they should be willing to put money where their mouth is and pony up to a PVG. What also seems to happen with properties for sale near industrial wind is that they take sometimes years to sell – as Geoff stated, when was the last time you had someone tell you they were looking for a home near an industrial wind farm? Unless of course you are profiting from the lease, and if you own property in Wyoming, not paying a DIME in tax for all those revenues. Talk about wealthy landowners……

    Love the idea of rooftop solar – if we all were as responsible as possible for producing our own energy needs, we would not then require the blight of industrialized wind or solar facilities. I’ve had rooftop for 27 years at my home in Tie Siding. Works like a charm – but one does have to brush off the snow now and then.

    1. All the residents of Albany county will receive financial compensation in one form or another. with wind development due to Increased sales and use taxes. which provide services to all residents of Albany county. The money the state receives will help all counties.

  10. Oil and Gas leases pay just $2 per acre. That bargain doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Hooray for Wind Energy!

    1. Please go to the State land Board site and read the lease . The State of Wyoming did an excellent job with their negotiations and came out with a benefit to the state. The two dollars an acre is not correct

  11. I encourage all who have made NIMBY comments to drive Pumpkin Vine Road 2o miles south on HWY 287 where the industrial sized turbines will go in phase II of the proposed Rail Tie Wind Project all the way to I-80. This road is not only private land it is state and county land. This is critical habitat for thousands of big game animals and species of greatest conservation need according to the Game and Fish. The animals that will be devastated and die from this project migrate to Curt Gowdy Park Vedauwoo, Blair Wallace, Pole Mountian, Happy Jack, Medicine Bow National Forest, Sherman, and the Pilot Hill public recreational areas so therefore WE ARE ALL NIMBYS. When you kill off biodiversity you increase global warming. When there is no biodiversity human health is doomed. I am pro renewable energy. The Lucky Star and Two Rivers Wind Projects are approved and will bring approximately 25 million annually to our coffers. Rail Tie Wind will destroy biodiversity and life on our planet it is that simple. Wyoming wake up not all renewable is GOOD renewable it is that simple.

    1. Anne Brande: “The animals that will be devastated and die from this project migrate…..”

      What animals are you referring to? I live in Medicine Bow, one of the epicenters of Wyoming wind development. The deer and antelope in this area seem completely unaffected by wind farms once the ~2 year construction phase is over. I actually have a photo of a herd of antelope laying on the ground, at rest, with a large turbine just behind them.

      Is there any actual peer reviewed evidence that large wind farms, past the construction phase, actually have an impact on large animal populations? If ‘yes’ then are the impacts caused by things like additional barbed wire fence – things that could be modified easily and made more compatible with big game? In other words, can relatively simple things be done to minimize the impact (to the extent it exists) of wind on wildlife while still gaining most of the environmental and economic benefits of wind energy?

      With respect to bird mortality attributed to turbines (mentioned by a different commenter): Please read this:
      https://www.fws.gov/birds/bird-enthusiasts/threats-to-birds.php
      before condemning one of the most promising sources of clean energy we will ever have.

      excerpt fm link:
      Birds killed by collision with building glass: 600 million/yr
      ” ” ” ” ” vehicles 214 ” ”
      ” ” ” cats 2400 ” ”
      ” ” ” WIND TURBINES 0.2 ” “

  12. The Rail Tie project is being pushed as an advantage for employment, taxes, electric rates, and the environment, and a disadvantage for many who live near the project. Both are correct. Yes, there are benefits from wind energy. And yes, a wind farm is the neighbor from Hell. Everyone gets the energy, but the neighbors get the bill. In effect, the project will be stealing property values from its neighbors to keep electric rates low for those who live far away. That’s not fair and not what Albany County should agree to.

    If we want to continue being “The Equality State”, we will have to work at it. People have homes in or near the proposed project because they like living there. Change their environment from a peaceful and natural environment to a chaotic jumble of enormous structures whirling in the wind, making loud thumping noises day and night, and shadow flicker early and late in the day and ask yourself, would you buy one of their homes near the wind farm? How low would the price have to be before you bought there? The loss in property values near wind farms and transmission lines could be as much as 50%, as nicely reviewed in Forbes at
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/judeclemente/2015/09/23/do-wind-turbines-lower-property-values/?sh=23e368b148cb

    Is it possible the competing arguments can be harmonized by fairly compensating neighbors for what the project takes from them? For example, how about appraising all nearby properties with and without the project and requiring the project to pay property owners up-front and in cash for any decrease. Obviously, a can of worms involving distance, existing viewshed, commercial value of properties, reduction in property taxes, and what percentage of property owners would have to agree to this arrangement before the project could proceed, but senior appraisers should be able to do this complex analysis.

    This is not just our problem. It occurs wherever wind and solar energy is collected. Perhaps a little research would discover good ideas from elsewhere. Talking past each other isn’t the answer. A “my way or the highway” approach should backfire. Let’s look for compromise.

    1. I disagree. They are ugly, noisy, and disruptive to wildlife. And, yes, they kill birds, too. And all for the sake of further enrichment of private electricity peddlers.

      1. Harvey, I would have to disagree. Not ugly, not “noisy” and certainly not disruptive in any way toward wildlife of any kind. I’ve been around them quite a bit in areas in Colorado and have in fact slept in a camper right below the turbines and find them restful and the wildlife just ignore the turbines completely.

  13. All I hear is a bunch of not in my backyard. We will all have to adapt if we want to live the same modern lifestyle in the future. We will either choke ourselves to death with carbon emissions or we will have windmills all over the place. The author seems to want neither.

  14. This seems like a classic case of NIMBY (not in my backyard).

    The author lives in the area, and despite touting “huge negative impacts on the environment”, fails to describe what exactly those might be, and why this particular area is so unsuitable for a wind farm. I looked up a map of the Rail Tie project, because this article doesn’t describe where exactly it’s located, and it’s hardly being built right on top of Vedauwoo. I can’t see why it would be any more harmful than the many other wind farms along 80 or 287 in the area, except that it happens to be near the author’s home.

    1. Exactly. This article is just a podium for someone to complain. Gotta laugh at using an environmental song to protest green energy; those are some serious mental gymnastics.

      Fact being: greenhouse gas emissions and climate change are a bigger threat to your land than wind turbines in the distance. Better these turbines than another sub-critical coal plant.

  15. Since songs are used to promote ideals and personal beliefs, I have always wondered about Woody Guthry’s song of :This Land is your land, this land is my land from California to the New York Island.” Woody spent part of his life as a card carrying communist and from his song it appears that everyone owns everything, even if they don;t hold the deed.

    1. Actually the song was an expression of a dream of how things should be, not of how they are. Read all the verses. Nothing wrong with communists, except in the eyes of fascists! Someone should actually try it. The closest approximation to actual communism is Cuba. They do pretty well considering that the monster to their west keeps interfering and has sanctioned them severely since the 1960s. Russia and China were simply dictatorships that called themselves communist.

      1. Cuba does pretty well with Communism? I’m still laughing…….most backward comment I have seen in years.

  16. While the $12 leases do indeed seem low, that is by no means the main expected contribution to state coffers from this project. Wyoming taxes the electricity produced by wind, as it does for minerals.

  17. I too am disappointed with the wind farm development. However, I know one of the major landowners in the area (who lives on their land) and this was the only alternative to remain solvent. Their only other alternative was to subdivide the land into ranchettes, which would preclude their only other source of income. Many of the current ranchettes belong to snow birds – summer residents only. Both types of development are devastating to the ecology of the area. Perhaps the solution is to find creative ways to make these large landscapes off limits to all development.

  18. The Mitchell lyrics are perfect for the situation. Just another kaputalist scam… at the cost of more environmental destruction. They’ll get the bucks. We’ll get the horrid view and other negative aftereffects. Whadda species!

      1. A backward step and one that will benefit energy companies–naturally. This country should mandate installation of solar panels on every new and existing structure. That would provide lots of energy (cooperatively) and provide long-lasting, good-paying jobs in manufacturing, installing, maintaining, and eventual replacement of cells. But, omigod, their would be no profit for private corporations who peddle energy!

        1. The wind turbines are a BIG improvement to the barren otherwise useless terrain in that area. “…the huge negative impart of the environment… Actually the only negative impart are the houses in that Area.