Wyoming and Colorado benefit by combining wind power

2013-04-01T23:45:00Z Wyoming and Colorado benefit by combining wind powerBy ADAM VOGE Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
April 01, 2013 11:45 pm  • 

Wyoming and Colorado would benefit by combining their wind energy resources, studies released Monday by the University of Wyoming and a national research laboratory show.

One study conducted by the university's Wind Research Center showed that Wyoming's wind is stronger than Colorado's and blows during the day, the ideal time to meet Colorado electric customers' demands.

The second study, conducted by the Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory, showed that construction of a transmission line connecting Wyoming and Colorado would bring 4,000 jobs and almost $4 billion in economic activity to the two states.

The studies are part of an effort commissioned by the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority to prove why Wyoming's wind resource is valuable to other states, especially those in need of renewable energy.

"Colorado has quality wind resources, as does Wyoming," J.M. Shafer, professional engineer and member of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority's board of directors, said in a prepared statement. "Given the significant amount of Colorado wind already connected to the grid, the time has come to consider blending it with a diverse resource..."

The authority, a quasi-governmental group which aims to diversify the state's economy, has used a similar study released in January to tout Wyoming wind's fit into California's power grid and thirst for renewable energy.

In the most recent study, university wind researchers used atmospheric data to compare Wyoming's wind to Colorado's.

The study found that joining Wyoming wind to Colorado's grid would help reduce volatility, a major criticism of the wind industry. Cowboy State wind could also reduce the need for standby backup power sources, saving utilities "in the tens of millions of dollars each year."

But for substantial Wyoming wind energy to be transmitted to Colorado, transmission lines must first be built.

One project which could remedy the situation is the Wyoming-Colorado Intertie Project, an 180-mile LS Power-owned line proposed to connect a substation near Wheatland to a substation near Brush, Colo., in the northeast corner of the state.

The project would transmit about 850 megawatts of wind energy on a 345-kilovolt line and could be in service by 2017. Wyoming Wind and Power, a Platte County company, has purchased all transmission capacity on the line.

The second study, commissioned by the state agency, shows that such a project -- when combined with about 900 megawatts of wind power generation facilities and backed by a 225-megawatt natural gas plant -- would bring nearly 400 jobs and create almost $4 billion in initial and total economic output in the two states.

The Colorado study is part two of a four-part series of releases planned by the Infrastructure Authority. The other two studies are expected to analyze Wyoming and Nebraska's wind resources and will also be used to show Wyoming wind's value -- both in and out of state.

"This study shows that infrastructure built in one state can benefit another state," Loyd Drain, executive director of the infrastructure authority, said in a prepared release. "I am hopeful this work by NREL will give pause to those who would believe that infrastructure built out of state yields zero benefits."

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