Pryor Mountain Wind Project on schedule

By 
Alastair Baker
News Editor
Thursday, July 30, 2020
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Photos by Tom Kohley
The base of one of the blades. Each blade is made from reinforced fiberglass material.

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One of the wind turbine towers begins to take shape.

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(Above) The gearbox. This sits on top of the tower with the rotors and the blades attached to it.

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PacifiCorp of Utah is well on track to complete the Pryor Mountain Wind Project, east of Bridger, and be operational by this October. 

Mortenson Construction, hired by PacifiCorp to see the project through, has already concreted over the 50-foot pads that will provide the base for the wind turbine generators. Carbon County Disaster & Emergency Services Coordinator Tom Kohley recently had an opportunity to see the progress along with first responders, firefighters, EMS personnel, and Public Health officials. 

“They have started to erect towers. There is still a lot of infrastructure to go in,” said Kohley. “There are two more sections to go up and the big rotor and the blades. 

The project calls for 114 wind turbines generators (WTG) that will be built, each with a 100-foot radius. The towers will be 80 meters high and carry blades up to 54-58 meters in length. The facility will have a capacity of approximately 240 Megawatts and is estimated will produce up to 841,000 MWh/year. An average household in the US uses 11 MWh/year (US DOE).

The Project sends power south to Wyoming and distributes it further but Montana is benefiting from the tax base  and employment, and the impact fee already distributed explained Kohley.

The site has a cement batching plant there and three metrological towers to help determine the position of the blades to counter various weather conditions to help maximize their efficiency. 

“When they reach 60 mph they then shut down to avoid damage to the blades,” said Kohley. 

The Operation and Maintenance building is the only thing that will remain out there when the construction is finished. 

Mortenson Construction,  “has been very safety conscience,” said Kohley. 

Kohley said the company has considered all major safety issues that may occur from summer fires, medical transportation to communications. 

According to Kohley the site, that is 12 miles wide, north to south, has two large water tankers that are currently used for dust abatement but could easily be converted to help with grassland fire. Frannie Fire, Rural Wyoming Protection District No. 5, will also assist with fire and medical along with Bridger Fire Department.  

For overland emergencies “they will direct us to the site through Warren and meet us there and lead us in there and shut down all other traffic on the road,” said Kohley

Regarding communication, “they have a repeater that transmits radio communications throughout the project site.”

“They are on different frequencies and we’re working on swapping these, but in the meantime, I gave them a public safety radio and they gave me one of their radios,” said Kohley. “If we need to respond we can get hold of them.” 

The company has also established contact with Help Flight out of Billings and Cody, so have two accesses to helicopters and have Paramedics on site all week long. 

“If there is an emergency in the tower they do have their own internal rope team during constructions and after that, they will have people on-site trained in this,” said Kohley. 

One of the biggest surprises is the many Prairie rattlesnakes dens in the area.

“They didn’t expect to run into these but they run into a lot of them. They brought in a zoologist who helped them with mediation ideas; how to remove them and how to work around them,” he said. 

The company has even put in a new road to make life easier for transport. 

“They put in a new road at Warren because the turn of Quarry Road is too tight and they couldn’t make the turn onto Railroad Bed Road. So they built a wide apron and it allows the drivers to come in, especially carrying those long rotor blades,” said Kohley.  

The new road will still be a county road and maintained by Carbon County.

“It is part of the impact fee that the county received,” said Kohley.

To date, there have been no major delays taking into account the effects of COVID-19 that has reduced the workforce from 350 to 250.

“They are still on day shifts but if they fall behind schedule they will work later,” said Kohley. 

The project, which will cost $406 million, has seen multiple developers come and go between 2013 and 2018 until PacifiCorp purchased the project in May last year.

The town of Bridger and its schools and Carbon County is expected to receive up to $6 million in impact fees. The project is also expected to provide a tax increase for Carbon County to the tune of $330,000 in the first year of operations. PacifiCorp's also received a tax abatement, meaning for the first five years they pay 25 percent of their taxes that then increases over the next five years. By year 11 they pay 100 percent. 

For those in Bridger School District, the increase in the tax base will result in approximate savings of $35 for a resident with a $100,000 house.