Wyoming Taxes the Wind, Maybe to Death

One of the world's largest wind farms could be dead on arrival
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2016 10:21 AM CDT
Wyoming Taxes the Wind, Maybe to Death
This May 6, 2013 file photo shows a wind turbine farm owned by PacifiCorp near Glenrock, Wyo.   (AP Photo/Matt Young)

Unlike many states that subsidize alternative energy sources, in 2012 Wyoming became the first state to tax wind power. In the four years since, it hasn't even collected $15 million in revenue—perhaps partly due to the lack of major wind projects constructed since the tax was enacted, reports the Los Angeles Times. But now the state known for loose regulations and lack of taxes, is discussing raising its wind tax higher—just as construction is set to begin on a massive wind project that would power upward of 1 million homes throughout California and the Southwest. Called the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, it's expected to cost $5 billion and produce up to 3,000 megawatts of power from its base in, well, Carbon County. "The benefits of wind are disproportionately on the West Coast, and the [social] costs of wind are disproportionately in Wyoming," says one state senator and economist on the state's revenue committee. "I think it’s just kind of a fair trade."

The CEO of the Power Company of Wyoming, which is planning the wind farm, says legislators are flirting with "taxing this project out of existence." Meanwhile, Gov. Matt Mead, who hasn't publicly taken sides, says Wyoming has "prided itself on being very business-friendly, including fewer regulations and low taxes." The Casper Star Tribune notes that opposition to a hike in wind tax is growing as people worry about stifling development. Local leaders support the project but not taxing it more, with the county planning director saying if Wyoming can finally sort out its tax policy, "That might be the shining light out of this." (On windy days, Denmark's turbines cover more than 100% of its energy needs.)

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