New transmission lines on the Wheatland horizonWritten by Jennifer Womack
“The WIA may, or may not, be part of that development, but I honestly think it’s going to happen and it’s going to be a good thing for our state.” During a follow-up interview with the Roundup, Drain added, “I’ve had very positive conversations with a number of parties that are interested in this.”
Drain also offered an update on the Wyoming-Colorado Intertie (WCI), a project stretching from the Laramie River Station to the northern Colorado area that several southeast Wyoming landowners are watching with a great deal of personal interest. “We had an open season that ended in the last few months and there were 585 of the 850 megawatts subscribed.” Drain said Duke Energy and GreenHunter purchased the capacity. Of the remaining 265 megawatts, Drain said protocol for acquiring that capacity should be posted at www.WCIntertie.com by mid-month. “We’re confident that by the end of the year that we’re going to have 100 percent subscription to that 265 MW, which will give us 100 percent subscription to the 850.”
Drain said that doesn’t mean the WCI project is “home free” for Wyoming. Turning an eye toward the Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo) market at the line’s destination he said the utility company early next year plans to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for 500 megawatts of wind-generated power. “All of those holders of capacity are going to be bidding on that,” said Drain, noting that responses will come from a broader area than Wyoming. “For us to think we’re going to be successful in capturing 100 percent of that 500 megawatts is questionable at this time.”
Other market opportunities, with some suppliers more interested in wind power than others, do exist as outlined by Drain. Black Hills is in need of 100 megawatts for its July 2008 Aquila purchase. Tri-State generation may be in the market for 600 to 700 megawatts following the uncertainty of a coal-based power plant in Kansas where it was looking to source the additional megawatts.
“As WCI approaches the ‘go or no-go’ point, should all 850 MW not have associated power purchase agreements, we can evaluate alternatives to make certain that the line is built,” said Drain. “We’ve had some positive conservations with Aaron Clark relative to this subject.” Clark does energy work for the Wyoming Governor’s Office.
Addressing other transmission projects across the state, Drain said Anschutz is the driving force behind Transwest Express, a project that will see 3,000 megawatts of wind developed in the state. Of the Gateway projects, Drain said, “They’re going to be built, no question. It’s just a question of size.” If the lines aren’t built to their full potential Drain said he’d like to see the lines built as double-circuit 500 kV lines via private/public solutions.
The High Plains Express Project, destined for Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, said Drain, “is a project that’s a few years away, but we’re working on it.” WIA just contributed $50,000 for some of the Phase II development. “It would come right through this area.”
Of the Trans-Canada project from the Medicine Bow area to Idaho and down to Las Vegas, Drain said, “There’s news coming on this before the end of the year.”
“You’re going to see more and more developers looking at the Wheatland/Chugwater area for access to renewable energy to take down their lines,” said Drain. He pointed out Wyoming’s positive story as it relates to wind. “We have two-thirds of the finest Class 7 wind right here in Wyoming. If you look at Class 5, 6 and 7 wind, we have more than the rest of the western states combined.”
“Our capacity factors make our wind more economical,” added RC&D Coordinator Grant Stumbough. Factoring in the recently renewed production tax credit Stumbough said wind power is comparable with traditional coal energy production in terms of cost.
Drain predicted there may come a day when rate regulators in the Desert Southwest & Southern California are asking the question why more Wyoming wind isn’t being used in some markets. Solar generated power, he offered as an example, costs three times what Wyoming wind-generated power does.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure wind from this area has the ability and opportunity to serve markets in the Desert Southwest and California,” said Drain. “We’re working on it.”