|A wind turbine on a ranch near Casper, Wyoming. (Photo by Madelyn Beck)|
Some of that is because farms and ranches, increasingly strapped for cash, see small wind turbine plots as a good way to supplement their income. A few years ago, for example, rural farmer Gregor Goertz (just north of Chugwater, pop. 212) "got a bunch of farmers together to form an association to pool properties and attract wind energy companies. They now have a contract with wind company Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, which will put up the turbines once they find a buyer for all that wind energy," Beck reports.
Critics say federal wind subsidies give wind an unfair advantage over petroleum products and ruin Wyoming's beautiful viewsheds. And that wind wouldn't even benefit Wyoming, they say, since it will likely find a market in California.
Still, wind power's popularity is on the rise. Two huge private projects are in the works, "both among the largest in the world. And earlier this year, regional utility Pacificorp announced a multi-billion dollar plan to upgrade and expand wind production in Wyoming," Beck reports.
In all, there are plans to build more than 2,000 wind turbines across the state within the next five to 10 years. And while most of that wind power will be used in other states, the production could help farmers in conservative rural areas stay afloat.