Solar changes adopted

Changes to the county’s industrial solar permitting rules, which would force developers to seek comments from the trona industry and state agencies like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department were approved by the Sweetwater County commissioners Tuesday in a 4-0 vote.

Commissioner Wally Johnson was absent from the meeting.

The changes come after issues arose during the Sweetwater Solar permitting process. A second solar facility, Raven Solar, is proposed near the current Sweetwater Solar location.

“I think it’s a good change, a good addition,” Commissioner Randy Wendling said.

Craig Rood, representing Ciner, said he has nothing against the regulation changes and encouraged the commissioners to avoid permitting additional solar projects on land tied to trona leases.

“We’re not against solar,” Rood said. “We’re against solar on the trona reserves.”

Rood said large-scale expansions are being planned and solar facilities could impact those expansion plans. He also invited the commissioners to look at the Sweetwater Solar facility and see how it has impacted local wildlife.

Concerns about the project impacting wildlife migration were realized earlier this month when herd of more than 1,000 antelope were funneled onto the nearby highway. This impact was predicted by the Wyoming Game and Fish in written comments submitted to the county’s land use office during the Sweetwater Solar permitting process.

Prior to the county commissioners’ approval, the changes were heard and recommended by the Sweetwater County Planning and Zoning Commission last week. Speaking to that group, Eric Bingham, director of the Sweetwater County Land Use Office, said they had difficulties in getting the developer to work with the WGFD.

Mark Kot, the public lands specialist for the county said the WGFD shouldn’t have been involved at the last minute.

“We want to see things up front, not at the 11th hour,” Kot said. “That doesn’t work.”

Bingham said the changes would cause other industrial developments outside of solar to seek comments from the mines if a proposal impactes lands they operate near.


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