ConnectGen develops, builds and operates utility-scale renewable energy and energy storage projects across the United States.
With a portfolio of over 20,000 MW of wind, solar, and storage projects under development across the United States, ConnectGen’s experienced team has a track record of successfully identifying, developing, and building renewable energy projects. Our project successes are built on a foundation of rigorous screening and site selection, collaborative engagement with landowners and host communities, and disciplined execution through development, construction and operations.
ConnectGen aims to begin construction of the Rail Tie Wind Project in fall 2022. The Project consists of two stages, each approximately 252 megawatts and divided by Highway 287. It’s anticipated that the West stage would be operational by the end of 2023 and the East stage would be operational by the end of 2024.
ConnectGen has executed wind leases with landowners for the Rail Tie Wind Project and is now focused on final engineering and pre-construction planning activities for the project, as well as finalizing a customer for the power. performing environmental and technical studies of the project area. ConnectGen is coordinating with the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) on its studies of the project’s interconnection to its transmission system.
Prior to starting construction, the Rail Tie Wind Project must undergo review at the federal, state and county levels. At the federal level, WAPA initiated its environmental review of the Project by publishing a Notice of Intent in December 2019. WAPA published its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in April 2021, its final EIS in November 2021, and its Record of Decision (ROD) in July 2022. The ROD marks the completion of WAPA’s multi-year environmental and technical review, including a detailed analysis of the physical, biological, cultural, and socioeconomic effects of the project. Information and updates about WAPA’s process can be found on their website at: https://www.wapa.gov/transmission/EnvironmentalReviewNEPA/Pages/rail-tie-wind-project.aspx
The Project has also undergone county and state permitting review processes. ConnectGen received a Wind Energy Conversion Systems permit from the Albany County Commission on July 13, 2021 and a Section 109 permit from the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council on July 21, 2021.
ConnectGen aims to begin construction of the Rail Tie Wind Project in spring 2023. The Project consists of two stages, each approximately 252 megawatts and divided by Highway 287. It’s anticipated that the first stage of the project will be operational by the end of 2024.
The Project is located in Albany County, WY near Tie Siding. Click here to download a map of the Project Area.
ConnectGen identified the Rail Tie Wind Project location through a screening exercise that started with the entire U.S. mountain west region, and iteratively narrowed down on areas that were suitable for wind development. Throughout 2019, ConnectGen performed environmental diligence studies and met with federal, state and local agencies to confirm that the selected site was appropriate for developing a utility-scale wind project.
The project location has one of the best wind resources in the western United States and avoids highly sensitive environmental areas in Wyoming. Importantly, the project will use the Western Area Power Administration’s existing high voltage transmission line that crosses through the project area, thereby avoiding the impacts of constructing significant new transmission infrastructure.
The Rail Tie Wind Project will be a total capital investment of more than $500 million in Albany County. The project will benefit the County by generating $130 million in new tax revenues, creating jobs, and increasing demand for local businesses.
During construction, the Rail Tie Wind Project will contribute approximately $14.6 million in sales and use taxes to Albany County. For comparison, this is equal to 80% of all sales and uses taxes distributed to Albany County in 2018. During operations, the project will provide a steady stream of tax revenues to the County, averaging $3.3 million per year over the 35-year project life. This amount includes sales and use taxes, wind excise taxes, and property taxes.
Additionally, approximately 20% of the project area is sited on state land. The project will pay annual wind lease payments to the Office of State Lands and Investments, which funds Wyoming’s public schools and institutions.
During construction, the Rail Tie Wind Project will support hundreds of construction jobs. These construction workers will drive local economic development through increased demand for supply chain businesses, hospitality services, and other local businesses. The project will generate at least 20 permanent operations jobs, which provide well-paying opportunities for young people to remain living and working in Wyoming.
The Rail Tie Wind Project will minimize the potential effects on local roads by entering into a road maintenance agreement with Albany County outlining the process of improving and repairing roads that will be used during construction and operations. Per the Albany County regulations (see Chapter 5 Section 12(G)(8)),1 the Rail Tie Wind Project will:
The road maintenance agreement will include:
As a long-term community partner, the Rail Tie Wind Project will leave the roads in as same or better condition as prior to construction.
The Rail Tie Wind Project will benefit neighboring landowners by providing vital tax dollars that are necessary for Albany County to provide infrastructure, road maintenance, fire protection, law enforcement, and other services to its rural residents. The tax dollars paid by rural residential developments do not currently cover the County’s cost of providing these services to them, sometimes resulting in limited protections.
From the Albany County Comprehensive Plan: “In recent years, the county has also begun to experience the conversion of agricultural lands to rural residential uses. The County has experienced difficulty providing services to new developments that are extremely remote… Although residential land is taxed at a higher rate than agricultural lands, the County’s current tax structure and permitting system do not require remote developments to pay the full additional cost of providing services to them.” 2
From the Albany County Code of the West: “All county residents pay taxes to the county government in exchange for provision of services. However, the revenue collected from rural residential developments does not cover the cost of services provided to rural residents. In general, city residents and rural agricultural producers subsidize the lifestyle of rural residents by making up the shortfall between the cost of services and revenues received from rural dwellers.” 3
The Rail Tie Wind Project is a separate project from the Hermosa wind project, which was under active development by Shell Wind Energy until 2013 when Shell exited the wind development business. Although the Rail Tie Wind Project does include several of the same landowners that were included in the Hermosa project, the Rail Tie Wind Project will undergo its own federal, state and local environmental review processes and ConnectGen is performing surveys and studies to support these reviews.
ConnectGen is responsible for the removal of the project at the end of the project’s life. Prior to starting construction, ConnectGen is required to put financial security in place to ensure that the landowners and community will bear no responsibility for removal or restoration.
Albany County and the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council require that ConnectGen provide a project decommissioning and reclamation plan prior to the start of construction. The decommissioning and reclamation plan will detail how ConnectGen will safely and responsibly remove the project infrastructure and restore the project area as close as possible to its prior condition. Additionally, prior to starting construction ConnectGen will be required to provide financial assurances sufficient for complete decommissioning and reclamation of the project at the end of its useful life. The amount of financial assurance will be determined by a third-party engineer and will be re-estimated and adjusted every five years. This financial assurance will remain in place even if ownership of the Project changes. Furthermore, the project will implement various best management practices and environmental protection measures to ensure avoidance, minimization, and mitigation of potential impacts during all phases of the project, including decommissioning.
At this stage of development, ConnectGen has not yet secured a customer for the project’s wind generation. ConnectGen must secure a customer for the project before it can begin construction.
When the wind blows past a wind turbine, its blades capture the wind’s energy and rotate, turning the wind’s kinetic energy into mechanical energy. Inside the wind turbine, this rotation turns an internal shaft connected to a gearbox, which then spins a generator that produces electricity. The wind turbine will rotate to face the strongest wind and will angle its blades to best capture the wind energy.4
ConnectGen considered a number of potential turbine models for the Rail Tie Wind Project. At the smaller end, ConnectGen considered a 3 megawatt (MW) turbine with a total height of 500 ft. At the upper end, ConnectGen considered a 6 MW turbine with a total height of 675 ft.
ConnectGen currently plans to use the Vestas V150-4.2 turbine for the Project. This 4.2 MW turbine has a total height of 590.5 ft (measured from the ground to the tip of the vertical blade).
The wind industry is trending towards larger, more efficient turbines, which is a positive trend because it means that wind projects require fewer turbines and less ground disturbance to produce more energy.
The wind turbines that will be used for the Rail Tie Wind Project are designed for on land use. ConnectGen initially considered turbine models between approximately 500 and 675 ft tall (measured from the base of the tower to the tip of the blade) and is currently planning to use turbines that are 590.5 ft tall. Technological advances over several decades have resulted in taller towers, longer blades and improved turbine efficiencies. While the underlying technology that has been used for over 30 years remains the same, these taller turbines and longer blades now allow for an exponential increase in output with fewer turbines, which decreases the footprint of wind projects.
Increased wind turbine height is an industry-wide trend, and ConnectGen is not alone in considering taller turbine technology. In 2018 and 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)* reviewed and approved applications for 2,997 land-based wind turbines with a maximum tip height of 650 feet or greater spread across 28 states. An additional 3,488 planned wind turbine locations with a tip height of 650 feet or greater are under FAA review as of April 2020. The Big Level Wind Farm, which is using wind turbines with a tip height of 654.5 feet, went into operation in December 2019. By the time the Rail Tie Wind Project begins construction, this taller turbine technology will be even more commonplace.
*The FAA is the sole government agency that can determine no hazard for purpose of aircraft safety, as such each proposed wind turbine location for any wind project in the United States must receive FAA approval in order to be constructed.
The number of turbines depends on the turbine model used; larger turbines with greater generating capacities results in fewer turbines needed for the project overall. ConnectGen is currently planning to use a 4.2 MW turbine, which means the 504 MW Project would include 120 turbines.
Wind turbines typically operate at wind speeds between 3 meters per second (7 miles per hour) and 27 meters per second (60 miles per hour). ConnectGen has analyzed several years of wind data collected in the Project Area to confirm that the wind resource is excellent for wind project operations.
Yes. Wind energy is a low-cost resource that is competitive with conventional energy sources. The cost of wind energy has fallen two-thirds since 2009, and in strong wind resources areas like Wyoming, wind energy is the most cost-effective source of new electricity.
Wind energy projects today receive a federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) during operations; this tax credit is in the process of being phased out. If the Rail Tie Wind Project achieves its target commercial operation date of December 2022, it will receive 60% of the historic value of the Production Tax Credit. The PTC was successful in establishing a reliable, competitive wind industry in the United States, and wind energy projects will remain competitive even after the PTC is fully phased out. Lazard’s 2019 Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis found that even without accounting for the PTC, wind energy today is cost-competitive with conventional energy sources.5
The primary federal incentive for wind energy development is the Production Tax Credit (PTC), legislation with bipartisan support.6 Tax policy is an important driver that prompts private investment, benefits the U.S. economy, and creates new jobs. Just as tax treatment for other energy sources has enabled growth and development, the PTC helped wind developers access the capital needed to build new wind projects.
For nearly 100 years, the federal government has supported energy innovation through various forms of tax incentives and other financial tools. While wind power does currently benefit from the PTC, it represents only a small fraction of the money U.S. taxpayers are spending each year to subsidize fossil fuels.
Over the last century, American taxpayers have paid more than $500 billion to subsidize the energy industry.7 Yet, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute and other third party sources, only 2.8% of all federal energy incentives have gone to wind energy over the last 70 years.8 The share of these energy incentives breaksdown as follows: 65% of the incentives have gone to fossil fuels, 21% have gone to nuclear, 2.8% have gone to wind, and the remaining 12% have been split between all other forms of renewable energy, including biofuels. With over 80% of these incentives going to fossil fuel and nuclear energy, wind power receives a benefit of mere cents on the dollar comparatively.
Yes. A typical wind energy project repays its carbon footprint in six months or less, providing decades of zero emissions energy that displaces the fossil fuel energy that was used to manufacture the turbines and construct the wind project.9 As wind turbine technology continues to improve with longer lifetimes and larger nameplate capacities, the length of the energy payback period will continue to decrease.
The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory reviewed all published research and concluded that wind energy’s carbon footprint is lower than nuclear and most other renewable energy resources.10
While wind is variable as a power resource, that does not mean that wind projects are backed up with a coal or gas plant should the wind stop blowing. The variability of wind can be predictably forecast and used to complement other generation sources. No electricity source runs 100 percent of the time, including coal, gas, and nuclear plants. Grid operators have decades of experience managing changes in supply and demand, and sudden, unexpected outages at large conventional power plants are more costly and difficult to manage than the gradual, predictable changes in wind output.11 Because of the balancing efforts grid operators undertake, it’s simply untrue that fossil fuel reserves run around the clock for when the wind doesn’t blow.
Wind energy projects, like all forms of development, can result in interactions with the natural environment. Wildlife and natural resources were an important consideration in ConnectGen’s selection of the Rail Tie project site. Importantly, the Project Area avoids sensitive wildlife areas known to Wyoming, such as the sage grouse core areas and connectivity zones, wildlife conservation areas, designated migration corridors, and TNC conservation priority areas.
Even though it has comparatively few effects on wildlife, the wind energy industry is closely regulated by state and federal agencies to ensure any effects are minimized and mitigated. The Rail Tie Wind Project site was selected as part of a screening process to identify sites with necessary wind generation characteristics but limited risks to wildlife and protected lands. ConnectGen is engaged in extensive studies of the wildlife resources associated with the project area. The studies are being performed as part of the tiered study approach described in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines, as well as applicable guidance provided by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.12 The data collected will be used to assess the potential impacts that the project may have on the natural environment and will help inform environmental protection measures that when implemented, will avoid and minimize impacts to wildlife. ConnectGen is committed to the responsible siting, construction, and operation of each of its wind projects.
Climate change remains the largest threat to wildlife. Wind power is one of the most effective, fastest, cheapest solutions to reduce carbon pollution and the climate change it contributes to. A typical wind project repays its carbon footprint in six months or less, providing decades of zero emission energy that displaces fossil fuel energy and combats climate change.13
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab noted that wind turbines cause less than 0.01 percent of all human-related bird deaths. According to the American Wind Energy Association, aside from habitat loss, the greatest cause of bird deaths are cats and tall buildings. As David O-Neil, Chief Conservation Officer at the Audubon Society stated in a Huffington Post article, “You can’t be against renewable energy, wind and solar, if you are for protecting birds.”
According to a 2018 study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory16, there are more than 1.3 million homes located within five miles of a utility-scale wind turbine. The study also found that 92 percent of survey respondents living within five miles of a wind turbine reported positive or neutral experiences and that 90 percent of survey respondents would prefer to live near a wind farm over any type of centralized power plant, whether coal, natural gas or nuclear.
Numerous peer-reviewed, third-party studies have shown that wind turbines do not have adverse, direct impacts on human health. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine titled, “Wind Turbines and Health: A Critical Review of the Scientific Literature.” A panel of experts with professional experience and training in occupational and environmental medicine, acoustics, epidemiology, otolaryngology, psychology, and public health was commissioned to “assess the peer-reviewed literature regarding potential health effects among people living in the vicinity of wind turbines.” Upon review, they concluded, “No clear or consistent association is seen between noise from wind turbines and any reported disease or other indicator of harm to human health.” 17
Further, Health Canada, in partnership with Statistics Canada, conducted a major study of over one thousand homes and reached the same conclusion, stating, “No evidence was found to support a link between exposure to wind turbine noise and any of the self-reported illnesses.” 18
Wind projects do not burn fossil fuel to generate electricity, and as a result, do not emit any air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, or particulate matter. In 2018, wind energy reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 200 million metric tons – equivalent to over 11 percent of annual U.S. electric sector emissions, or nearly 43 million cars’ worth of carbon emissions.19 It is estimated that by reducing harmful emissions that contribute to chronic illness and premature death, wind projects reduced public health costs by $9.4 billion in 2018 alone.20
Today’s wind turbines take advantage of over 30 years of design, engineering, manufacturing and operating experience to minimize sound from operations. Further, the Rail Tie Wind Project will be designed to comply with local and state laws to limit sound impacts.
Existing infrastructure, such as the Union Pacific railroad and Highway 287, and the sound of the wind itself contribute to existing noise levels in the Project Area. ConnectGen will design the Rail Tie Wind Project within Albany County’s regulations, which will minimize additional sound impacts on nearby residences.
Albany County’s wind regulations mandate that noise associated with large-scale wind project operation shall not exceed 55 dBA at any point along the common property lines between a non-participating property and a participating property. For comparison, a 55 dBA sound level is considered to be equivalent to a quiet suburban night. An Acoustical Assessment was performed for the Project as part of the County permit application to confirm that the Project will not exceed this noise limit. Because the Albany County noise limit is set at the property line, the noise levels at and inside neighboring residences will be even lower. And as a condition of the Albany County permit, the Rail Tie Wind Project must locate turbines at least one-mile from existing non-participating residences.
Many studies have shown that wind projects do not have long-term negative impacts on the value of neighboring properties. Wind projects benefit all local property owners by driving economic investment and tax revenue. These funds improve roads, schools, and community services, while also keeping local taxes low – all of which factor into property values.
According to the Energy Policy Institute, 10 major studies spanning three countries and 1.3 million property transactions over 18 years have found that wind projects do not decrease property values:
Polls consistently find that a majority of Americans support wind energy, and in places where there are more wind turbines present, there is increased support.24 For example:
As with any structure, wind turbines can accumulate ice under certain atmospheric conditions. This possibility and the risk of ice throw is taken into account during both project planning and operation. The turbines used for the Rail Tie Wind Project will be properly sited in accordance with Albany County regulations, which requires setback distances from roads and residences that adequately protect the public from the risk of ice throw.29
In addition, modern wind turbines are designed with ice detection systems to minimize the potential for ice throw. If ice accumulates on the blades, the turbine will simply shut off and will remain at a standstill until the ice melts.
Wind turbine fires are rare events; statistically, the potential for a single wind turbine to catch fire is approximately 1 in 1,700 to 2,000.30 Regardless, ConnectGen has committed to fire safety measures that will minimize the likelihood of a wind turbine fire and will have emergency response plans in place in the event that a fire occurs.
The wind turbines to be used for the Rail Tie Wind Project include fire prevention design features that will minimize fire risk. For example, each turbine is equipped with a Lightning Protection System designed to International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards, which prevents fire ignition if the turbine is struck by lightning. Furthermore, each turbine is equipped with smoke detectors inside the turbine that automatically shut down the turbine and alert the Project Operations team as soon as fire is detected.
In accordance with the Albany County Zoning Resolution, ConnectGen is developing an Emergency Response Plan in coordination with local emergency response agencies. The Plan outlines the response protocols for emergencies, such as fire, that could occur at the Project. In addition, Wildfire Mitigation Measures will be developed in coordination with the Laramie Fire Department, Tie Siding Volunteer Fire Department, and Vedauwoo Volunteer Fire Department and will be incorporated into the Emergency Management Plan.
2 Albany County Wyoming: “Albany County Comprehensive Plan, section3.1”: https://www.co.albany.wy.us/256/Plans-Reports
3 Albany County, Wyoming: “Code of the West”: https://www.co.albany.wy.us/DocumentCenter/View/926/Code-of-the-West-PDF
4 AWEA: “Basics of Wind Energy:” https://www.awea.org/wind-101/basics-of-wind-energy
5 Lazard: “Levelized Cost of Energy version 13.0”: https://www.lazard.com/media/451086/lazards-levelized-cost-of-energy-version-130-vf.pdf
9 Science Daily: “Wind turbine payback: Environmental lifecycle assessment of 2-megawatt wind turbines”: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616093317.htm
10 NREL: “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Electricity Generation”: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/57187.pdf
11 Forbes: “What Does 100% Renewable Energy Really Mean?” https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshuarhodes/2018/08/21/what-does-100-renewable-energy-really-mean/#209166ce1ac8
12 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines”: https://www.fws.gov/ecological-services/es-library/pdfs/WEG_final.pdf
13 Science Daily: “Wind turbine payback: Environmental lifecycle assessment of 2-megawatt wind turbines”: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140616093317.htm
14 Global Wind Energy Council: “Wind in Numbers”: https://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=300410
15 AWEA: “Living Near Wind Turbines:” https://cleanpower.org/blog/the-truth-about-wind-power/
16 Berkley Lab: “National Survey of Attitudes of Wind Power Project Neighbors”: https://emp.lbl.gov/projects/wind-neighbor-survey?utm_source=Hoen-Wind+Acceptance+Survey&utm_campaign=Hoen-Wind+Acceptance+Survey&utm_medium=email
17 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: “Wind Turbines and Health: A Critical Review of the Scientific Literature”: https://journals.lww.com/joem/Pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2014&issue=11000&article=00009&type=Fulltex
18 Government of Canada: “What is the Wind Turbine Noise and Health Study?”: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-risks-safety/radiation/everyday-things-emit-radiation/wind-turbine-noise/wind-turbine-noise-environmental-workplace-health.html
19 AWEA: “Environmental Benefits”: https://www.awea.org/wind-101/benefits-of-wind/environmental-benefits
20 AWEA: “Environmental Benefits” https://www.awea.org/wind-101/benefits-of-wind/environmental-benefits
21 Berkley Lab: “A Spatial Hedonic Analysis of the Effects of Wind Energy Facilities on Surrounding Property Values in the United States” https://emp.lbl.gov/publications/spatial-hedonic-analysis-effects-wind
22 Massachusetts Clean Energy Center: “Relationship between Wind Turbines and Residential Property Values in Massachusetts”: https://www.masscec.com/relationship-between-wind-turbines-and-residential-property-values-massachusetts
23 Renewable UK: “RenewableUK & Cebr Study – The effect of wind farms on house prices”: https://www.renewableuk.com/news/304411/RenewableUK–Cebr-Study—The-effect-of-wind-projects-on-house-prices.htm
24 Clean Technica: “Americans Overwhelmingly Support Wind Power”: https://cleantechnica.com/2014/04/01/wind-power-widely-supported-americans/
25 NC Coastal Wind: “Wind farms are tourist attractions”: https://cleanenergy.org/blog/turbinetourism/
27 USA Today: “Ocean City offshore wind project won’t deter tourists, developer says”: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/local/maryland/2017/08/18/ocean-city-offshore-wind-project-wont-deter-tourists-developer-says/580048001/
28 The University of Rhode Island: “URI researchers: Offshore wind farm increased tourism on Block Island”: https://today.uri.edu/news/uri-researchers-offshore-wind-farm-increased-tourism-on-block-island/
29 https://www.co.albany.wy.us/DocumentCenter/View/1004/Zoning-Resolution-PDF (see Section 5-15 (G)(7))
30 Firetrace International. 2019. The Wind Turbine Fire Problem, By the Numbers. Available at https://www.firetrace.com/fire-protection-blog/wind-turbine-fire-statistics#:~:text=Wind%20turbines%20catch%20fire%20at%20a%20rate%20of%201%20in%201%2C710&text=That%20means%201%20in%20every,1%20in%202%2C000%20each%20year.