Study helps Wyoming pitch wind energy to California

2013-01-24T23:55:00Z Study helps Wyoming pitch wind energy to CaliforniaBy ADAM VOGE Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
January 24, 2013 11:55 pm  • 

CASPER — Wyoming wind officials say a University of Wyoming wind energy study released Thursday is already aiding their efforts as they try to pitch the state's resource in California.

Information in the study shows that combining Wyoming wind resources with those in California could reduce power source variability and save the state as much as $100 million per year.

Past Wyoming sales pitches have met with reluctance by California, which would prefer to relyvon its own power generation.

Loyd Drain, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, said he and other representatives of the state's wind industry have already started to use data from the study in meetings with top California officials.

"It's been the centerpiece of our outreach effort to California," he said. "We've met with over 40 key officials. The fact that they’re opening their doors and allowing us to share with them the results of this study means a lot."

A call to study author Jonathan Naughton was not returned Thursday. The study, "Wind Diversity Enhancement of Wyoming/California Wind Energy Projects," is the first analysis of a four-part University of Wyoming Wind Energy Research Center study on diversity of wind resources around the country.

Researchers used atmospheric wind data to log wind density and variability from five sites in Wyoming either near existing or planned wind facilities and compared them with similar sites in California. Wyoming sites used in the study include areas near Casper, Medicine Bow, Rawlins, Wheatland and the southern Laramie Valley.

Among the findings of the study — most of which could help Wyoming wind producers — are that the state holds a far greater area with high potential for wind projects, especially in the southeast part of the state.

The study also indicated that Wyoming and California winds are complementary, meaning that Wyoming wind peaks could offset low outputs of California wind and reduce variability, a common criticism of the power source.

Researchers also said stability from adding Wyoming wind would reduce the need for standby dispatchable power generation, which could save $100 million every year.

Drain said the study presented few surprises.

"If you live in Wyoming, you know we have good wind resources," he said. "We always assumed our wind would blow at different times than wind in different states."

The infrastructure authority and university will now turn their attention to a second phase of the same study, in which real-time data will be logged and compared to the atmospheric data used in phase one. Drain said he expects results from the second phase to be "even more profound" than the first.

The wind research lab will also begin work on the three remaining parts of the study, which will also compare Wyoming wind to wind in Colorado, Nebraska and itself.

Drain said the study has helped Wyoming's wind lobby get a foot in the Californian doorway. He added that they'll "keep plugging away" in the hope of finding more results soon.

"This is not smoke and mirrors," he said. "We’re not trying to tell (California) what to do, but say, 'Here’s what Wyoming can do for California. At the end of the day, it’s up to you what you can do with it.'"

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