Wind power developers are have grown wary of siting projects in south-central Wyoming after state and federal regulators warned that such developments could lead to a federal Endangered Species Act listing for sage grouse. Photo courtesy of NREL.
Wyoming's wind energy boom is stalling amid growing confusion over state regulations designed to protect environmentally sensitive sage grouse and how those rules should apply to wind power projects.
Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy announced last week that it is indefinitely suspending plans to build a 300-megawatt-capacity wind farm that would have occupied one of dozens of state-designated "sage grouse core areas" deemed essential to protecting the imperiled bird.
In suspending its Simpson Ridge project, Horizon cited ongoing regulatory uncertainty about sage grouse protections, particularly the question of whether proper mitigation plans can be developed that allow for wind turbines to be built in sage grouse core areas.
The chicken-like bird depends on Wyoming's sagebrush-steppe habitat for shelter and food. But those same areas, especially in the south-central part of the state, are also among the best wind power development sites in the West, according to industry experts.
State officials maintain there's still plenty of room in Wyoming for wind turbines.