Solar project to bring 250 jobs


GOSHEN COUNTY – In a recent letter to the editor, Go Goshen’s chief executive officer, Brayden Connour addressed the solar project which is slated near Yoder, stating the company plans on hiring up to 250 local construction workers.

The land, according to the owner, Nancy Otto, is commonly referred to as “Bogville,” and is about 12 miles southwest of the small town. According to Otto, the project is surrounded by more than 50,000 acres of pasture. 

“It’s approximately 1,200 acres in southwest Goshen County. It’s in that tri-state transmission line so it’s in that corridor,” Connour explained. “The land’s completely privately owned. I think they got the land part of it locked up before they went through any of the other things on the checklist.”

“Until recently, renewable energy in Wyoming has been predominately wind turbines. With ample open space and a tri-state transmission line running through Goshen County, it was only a matter of time before this area was seen as a potential location for a commercial/industrial-sized solar farm,” Connour said. “For example, Goshen Solar, LLC worked through the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council process to construct an approximately 1,200-acre industrial solar farm in the southwest portion of Goshen County.”

Connour’s letter estimated approximately $8 million in sales and use tax revenue (one-time), approximately $35 million in total property tax receipts (30-year project life), approximately $6 million to the Goshen County government, approximately $26 million to education, which includes both Goshen County School District and Eastern Wyoming College, and approximately $3 million to local special districts. He also projects Approximately 250 temporary workers during construction and eight to ten permanent full-time positions. 

“The estimated revenues above are from the project alone. That doesn’t include the benefits that the local business community will feel from the construction workers staying in hotels, eating in area restaurants, and buying gas and groceries. According to the socio-economic study done for the Industrial Siting application, it is estimated that non-local workers will spend approximately $6.6 million on lodging and $4 million on meals and incidentals in the local economy. In total, it is estimated that Goshen County will have a total impact of $38.4 million, direct, and indirect project spending,” according to Connour. 

“Agrivoltaics or dual use is a perfect fit for an agricultural-centered economy. It diversifies income for the property owner through land lease payments along with profits generated by crops and livestock production. In a lot of solar farm projects, the land is disturbed with cement slabs to support the system. In the dual-use method we propose, the posts for the solar panels will be pile-driven and stand higher off of the ground to allow livestock to feed under the panels. In many countries such as Poland and Germany they are growing crops under the panels with great success,” Paul Stroud, director of Cowboy Energy said. “Agriculturally the land will benefit by more native grasses being produced for the livestock and the removal of ‘cheatgrass’ which has been a big issue for the ranchers. Cheatgrass is an invasive, low nutrient grass that has sprung up in recent years arriving from Europe and Africa.”

Stroud says in being a conservative Wyomingite, he believes in being self-sufficient. 

“We figured Goshen had the same mindset as they have overcome a lot of issues in the past with their pioneer attitude. With the drought Goshen has suffered through the past few years, water tables have dropped, causing a lot of ranchers to reduce the ag-production rates. Agrivoltaics helps decrease the evaporation rate of water from the soil helping reduce irrigation needs. We feel our project will be a perfect fit to overcome a lot of problems Goshen County has suffered from during the past few years,” Stroud said.

One of the main concerns of the community has been the risk of having a solar panel farm in what is now called part of “hail alley,” and the destruction the facility could face during severe storm season. 

“Unlike a lot of solar panels Goshen panels will be monocrystalline encased in hardened glass and will be treated on a system that allows them to be turned down to the ground, protecting the panels from harmful hail or extreme weather,” Stroud explained. 

Connour explained the calculations were taken from the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council Siting Application which is nearly 400 pages. 

“This is an opportunity for Goshen County to receive economic benefit from an energy project, just like Converse and Campbell counties have benefited from coal, oil, and gas. Unfortunately, the Goshen County Planning Commission has drafted regulations that will all but kill any future project like the Goshen Solar project. Wyoming has always been an energy export state, why is exporting solar energy any different? Goshen County should embrace economic opportunities and preserve private property rights, not regulate them to another county,” Connour continued.

“This is probably the largest construction in Goshen County. I mean, probably in the history. The emotional side of it is not really my wheelhouse. We are nonpartisan and we just try to give an understanding of the estimated impact. That impact is going to hit here. We are going to have a positive impact from that. You know, it’s only 20 miles to the job site as opposed to 60 or 80 from Cheyenne. As many construction workers as can will probably stay in the local area.” 

Since Connour anticipates workers staying locally, there will also be contributions to the community as workers spend money in local stores and restaurants. 

“We benefit from that. That’s really where we are coming from,” Connour explained. 

Connour also explained local businesses should get acquainted with the construction companies, so workers know where stores are located and what goods are available at those locations, including businesses in the town of Yoder. 

“I think probably, unfortunately, they’re going to see an increase in traffic if that company can trans-load at Dietzler Construction facility and offload all of that material to go south to that job site, but theoretically it should be on the west side of town. You will have trucks coming through but then they should all stay west of town and go. I think as far as Yoder going to feel the advantage hopefully their sale tax revenues at the local stores and the county will see an increase in revenue and hopefully, roads are maintained a little better and whatever comes along with the additional revenues,” Connour explained. “Obviously with these types of things, the estimates and the hope is those people spend the money locally. I think that’s going to be realized to some effect.”

Connour expressed the company plans on hiring as many local workers as possible.