Public placated by Wind Turbine plans

Thursday, October 31, 2019

By Alastair Baker 

News Editor

 

A public meeting to meet the contractors hired by Utah based Pacificorp to oversee the Pryor Mountain Wind Project seemed to appease the concerns of those in attendance after hearing Mortenson Construction’s plans for the project and their lengths to mitigate as much hardship to the residents as possible. 

Tom Hughes, Senior Project Manager for Mortenson, told the 70-plus crowd that the company have been involved with wind tower projects since 1995 and for the last three years had been voted number 1 in this line of work.

“We’ve worked with small communities before and we want to leave a positive impression,” he said.

Jared Hall, Mortenson Project Manager, said that construction had “Already begun, putting down our laydown yard and access roads. This will continue till Thanksgiving as long as the weather holds and restart about April, May.”

He said that people should expect to see “components coming through here in July to start erecting the towers and top everything out towards the end of November.”

As to the workforce, Hall said that for this Fall it would be no more than 15-20 people on site. This number would grow to between 250-300 by late Spring, May to early June, with the peak of the workforce traffic in July.

Several audience questions centered on food and accommodations for the workforce to which Mortenson replied that it is up to the workers’ “discretion” where they stay or what they do to eat.

“We are not building man camps,” said Hughes.

For people wanting to post for housing opportunities Hall said there will be a posting board at the complex.

“It will be the primary source where people will look for housing,” he said.

As to finding employment on the crews, Hughes said that people would have to defer to the Operating Engineers Labor Union No. 400 in Billings. 

Regarding supplies, Hughes said, “A lot of the big-ticket items, concrete, reinforced steel, is tied up. We are always looking for local supplies. We are working with Town and Country and other local suppliers.” 

Delivery routes were discussed with Hall saying they are still waiting on the vendor for the turbine equipment who will determine what is the best route to the site either by truck or train.

“It’s in progress at the moment. They will be turning off Highway 310 and (onto) Quarry Road at Warren but we don’t know if it is from the north or the south,” he said.

In terms of gravel and concrete supply, “there will be an onsite batch plant so as far as concrete trucks rolling through town it would only be to get to the site. Traffic is excluded to Rail Bed Road,” said Hall. 

“A lot of the trucks will be coming from Montana Limestone, and going down Quarry Road, and won’t even make it to Highway 310 before they have to turn north on Rail Bed Road,” he said. 

“Pryor Mountain is too steep,” said Hughes. “Too many curves. There is the possibility of a one-way loop of traffic to the site. They can be telescoped down if the trucks are empty so they can go down Pryor Mountain Road and out that way to avoid two-way traffic. This is our thought process at least for the equipment delivery for the concrete trucks, coming out from Montana Limestone.”

As for the re-enforced steel and crane mass, Mortenson doesn’t have those routes yet.

Carbon County Commissioners Scott Blain, Bill Bullock, and Pitts  DeArmond were on hand to answer any of the financial aspects associated with this project.

They explained Pacificorps 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 will pay 100 percent.

The tax revenue from this is expected to be $192,000 in the first year; $327,000 the second year; $573,000 year 7 and $790,000 by the 11th year.

Bridger School District is expected to get over $1 million from the project.

Carbon County has already received over $4 million in impact fees from Pacificorps and it is already in a short-term investment account. The impact fees is a combination of bridge, road and prep fees, and total impact fee. 

When asked what the impact fees would go towards Bullock said that would have to be determined by what impacts were made on the county and any communities. 

“We have to wait to see what the impacts are from this project. Don’t know what the impacts are yet. They have to put everything back where it belongs by law. That is part of the impact fee and paid for out of the money. It will be used to mitigate any impacts,” he said. 

The impact fee will also go to cover any dust abatement issues and is being planned to fix a bridge on Highway 310. 

Mortenson has also been working with local entitles to establish an emergency response plan to cover all possibilities and have contacted local clinics and is co-coordinating with air remote as well. 

Every driver will be equipped with a map of the area and will be helped by a lot of signage.

“We don’t want them running around up there,” said DeArmond. 

As to further safety concerns such as speeding through neighborhoods, Mortenson has already been in contact with the Police Chief. 

“If there is a problem we will try to address that. We are very safety conscious,” said Ken Clark Senior Business Development Specialist with Pacificorps. 

Once finished there will be a site manager, and 12 wind technicians trained to maintain the turbines at all times of the year. 

The project, which will cost $406 million and expected to have a 30-year life, has seen multiple developers come and go between 2013 and 2018 until PacifiCorp purchased the project in May last year. 

A total of 114 wind turbines generators (WTG) 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).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a wind turbine technician is the second-fastest-growing job in the country. Today, more than 114,000 Americans work in wind energy.

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