Study touts Wyoming windWritten by Jennifer Womack
“…Wyoming wind is the lowest cost, largest volume, renewable energy solution available for the Desert Southwest Region (DSW),” says the 47-page document. “This makes Wyoming wind an obvious choice for the DSW markets that will need significant amounts of renewable energy in the coming years.” Lacking water requirements and efficient land use are also noted in the report as attributes of wind energy development.
Citing Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) data, National Grid says the western U.S. will require 116,000 GWh per year of new renewable energy sources to meet 2020 RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) goals, requiring an investment in excess of $100 billion. “The Desert Southwest (Arizona, Nevada and Southern California) will require approximately 50 percent of this total, or about 55,000 GWh by 2020.”
With considerable demand in place, the report says, “Based on National Renewable Energy Laboratory data, the potential of Arizona, California and Nevada’s concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and wind resources is 2.2 million GWh per year and 85,000 GWh per year, respectively. The potential of Wyoming’s Class 6 and 7 wind energy resources is 235,000 GWh per year and the potential of Wyoming’s Class 4 and above wind energy resources is 944,000 GWh per year.”
Renewable energy consultant Ed Werner of Douglas says the report endorses what Wyoming folks working in the area of wind development have been saying for the last four years. “Somebody finally did the study and realized Wyoming is the state that is going to have to supply most of the Desert Southwest’s energy needs,” says Werner. He describes California, given its RPS and load growth, as the “800-pound gorilla.” Someone’s going to have to, as he says, “feed that gorilla bananas,” and Wyoming may be the only state with that ability given its production capabilities that far surpass local demand. Montana may also play a role, he says, but Werner notes its position further away from key markets.
While research needs remain, the report concludes that Wyoming is a “jewel” in the region as a producer of renewable energy. NREL data, according to the report, shows that over 50 percent of the best quality (Class 6 and 7) wind resources in the continental U.S. are located in Wyoming. “This vast Wyoming resource is, however, remote from large load centers and new long-distance transmission is required to move this power to market.”
Transmission capacity has earned the attention of people spanning from landowners looking to lease their wind rights for development to the state’s leaders.
Southeast Wyoming Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Coordinator Grant Stumbough has helped 250 southeast Wyoming landowners form eight wind associations and is among those who welcome the growing discussion surrounding transmission infrastructure. “Southeast Wyoming has some of the best wind in the world for energy development,” says Stumbough noting a 40-50 percent wind capacity factor and average speeds of 8-24 mph. What the state now needs, adds Stumbough, is the ability to get wind-generated electricity to market. The TransWest Express (TWE) project discussed in the report won’t come to Stumbough’s area, but could bring transmission discussion to a new level.
National Grid says the 3,000 MW TWE stretching from Southeast Wyoming to a terminal in southern Nevada could be operational as early as 2014. That’s one year earlier than has been predicted by the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority leading up to now. The 900-mile project is estimated to cost $3 billion. Anchutz Corporation, via a subsidiary called Transwest Express, LLC, will oversee project construction and acquired development rights from National Grid.
According to a July 29, 2008 article in the Denver Business Journal, another Anschutz affiliate, Power Company of Wyoming, LLC, is developing a 2,000 MW wind farm project in Carbon County. According to Transwest Express, LLC, the TransWest Express Project could meet 25 percent of the renewable energy needs forecast for 2020.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal described the announcement as a “milestone on Wyoming’s pathway to becoming a major provider of renewable wind energy to America.”
He further stated, “We now have a major study by National Grid that confirms that Wyoming wind farms are among the best renewable energy options for the American Southwest. With the Anchutz Corporation, through a subsidiary, taking on the role of developer for the TransWest Express transmission project, we are not just talking about another study on the shelf, but a real project on the ground.”
Werner says a billionaire willing to step forward and invest his money in a transmission project to carry wind power should loosen investment dollars for similar such projects.
For landowners, Werner says it’s game of “wait and see.” With TWE likely to be one of as many as eight to 10 projects, he says for those with quality wind it’s just a matter of when the transmission arrives. “Watch what’s going on and get a feel for the timing. Twenty-five years isn’t a long time when you’re talking about this type of growth.” He anticipates the state’s more eastern wind resources eventually serving the Front Range while those in Central and Western Wyoming will be looked to as a source of power for the Desert Southwest.
In the broader picture, Stumbough says national regulations now stymieing infrastructure development such as FERC 888 need to be amended. “We need to provide incentives to build capacity,” says Stumbough.