JACKSON, Wyo. — Wyoming wind energy must be marketed properly to skeptical Californians in order to capitalize on the Golden State’s strict renewable-energy laws, according to a panel of energy experts.
The panelists addressed 60 people gathered in Jackson on Tuesday for a meeting of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, a quasi-governmental state agency that’s tasked to diversify and expand Wyoming’s economy through electric transmission infrastructure.
Wyoming state government could earn new revenue from selling more wind power to California. Typically, California homes, businesses and industries use 30,000 megawatts of electricity.
During peak times, that increases to 50,000 MW, said Jeff Harris, a water and energy lawyer for Sacramento-based Ellison, Schneider and Harris LLP.
By 2020, 33 percent of all electricity purchased by large power companies will have to come from renewable-energy sources, according to California state law. The so-called renewables portfolio standard is one of the nation’s most aggressive, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.
“We do need your megawatts,” Harris said about Wyoming wind. “Southern California is in trouble both long-term and short-term. Don’t forget we get about 40 percent of our (natural) gas in Wyoming.”
Wind developers need to erase two myths that exist in California, Harris said: That Wyoming wind will supplant California wind, and that Wyoming wind is as unreliable as California wind.
It’s important for wind developers to realize that California wind will always be preferred to Wyoming wind, he added.
“We’re very protectionist,” Harris said.
The opportunity for Wyoming wind comes in the afternoons on hot days.
Solar energy is California is generated from noon to 3 p.m., when the sun is strongest. After that, wind energy is necessary.
At 5 p.m. on business days, there are peaks on electricity usage because air conditioners and computers are still running in offices. But in houses, air conditioners are programmed to begin running to cool the house down for the occupants, Harris said.
“California has never produced the energy needed to power the state,” said Jesus Arredondo, principal of Advantage Consulting LLC of Sacramento, which specializes in energy policy. “Never.”
Arredondo said it’s likely that the California State Assembly will increase the renewables portfolio standard to 40 percent.
Arredondo rattled off a handful of bills that are going through the full-time California Legislature that are being amended to increase the portfolio standard, and said Gov. Jerry Brown would be supportive. “Will the governor push to 40 percent?” he said. “I think he will. I think he’s already actively doing that.”