LARAMIE, Wyo. — Expanding Wyoming’s wind energy industry could boost the state’s economic diversification and help address its education funding issues, members of a panel said during a forum on wind energy topics.
Panelist Riata Little of the Casper Area Economic Development Association said wind would not be subject to the same volatile boom-and-bust cycle that coal is famous for in the state.
“Wind is much more stable, because they sell that contract for 20 years,” Little said during the event Monday. “A good economy can survive a boom and bust if it’s not reliant on that one industry
Money brought into the state could also help offset effects to education caused by the decline of the coal industry, panelists said, according to the Laramie Boomerang (http://bit.ly/2ymHSKp).
The state’s public education has been dependent on taxes paid by the mineral industry, which paid for about 68,000 of the state’s roughly 90,000 public school students, Rep. Mike Madden, R-Buffalo, said.
Madden said the number has dropped in the past two or three years because of the downturn in the industry, to roughly 55,000, so Wyoming residents are left footing more of the bill.
“That’s the kind of thing we get ourselves into when we have an imbalanced system,” he said.
There was discussion about state taxes on wind energy production, but Little said the issue with the wind industry in Wyoming was more likely an image problem.
“In my conversations with companies in the wind industry, the problem with Wyoming is not necessarily the one dollar per megawatt tax,” she said. “The problem is that there’s inconsistent messaging. And there’s a real feel that Wyoming is not open for business for wind.”
Titled “Wyoming’s Wind Energy Future,” the two-day forum was convened by the University of Wyoming Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources and the UW School of Energy Resources’ Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy. It was sponsored by Stroock Forum on Wyoming Lands and People, Center for Law and Energy Resources in the Rockies and the Walton Family Foundation.
Information from: Laramie Boomerang, http://www.laramieboomerang.com