CHEYENNE – An Idaho company plans to build several water reservoirs around the state as a way to store excess power generated by Wyoming’s mushrooming wind energy industry.
Boise-based Gridflex hopes to start work in the next few years on reservoirs near Glenrock, Medicine Bow and northern Carbon County as so-called “pumped-storage” facilities.
The storage facilities, which could cost a combined $2.2 billion to build, are designed to solve a key problem with wind energy generators: they don’t provide a steady, regular flow of electricity.
Sometimes the wind blows so strongly the generators provide more electricity than transmission lines can handle; when the wind stops, no energy is generated at all.
In a pumped-storage facility, two reservoirs are built at different elevations. When the wind blows strongly, the excess energy is used to pump water into the upper reservoir. When the wind dies down, the water is let out into the lower reservoir through turbines, generating hydroelectric power to compensate for the reduced wind power generation.
Pumped-storage facilities have been around for decades but, because of a lack of demand, no new facilities have been built in the United States since the early 1990s, said Gridflex’s Matthew Shapiro.
Shapiro outlined his company’s plans at a Wyoming Infrastructure Authority meeting Tuesday in Cheyenne.
With the rise of renewable energy in the past few years, Shapiro said, suddenly there’s a need to store large amounts of energy in an efficient way.
Gridflex has received preliminary permits from federal regulators to study the potential of building the projects along Deer Creek southwest of Glenrock and near the town of Medicine Bow in southern Wyoming, Shapiro said. The company is also looking to build a facility along the Seminoe Reservoir in Carbon County, he said.
If all goes according to plan, Shapiro said, construction on the Deer Creek and Medicine Bow facilities could start by 2015.
Work on the projects would start about the same time a number of large interstate transmission lines are scheduled to be built. The lines will connect Wyoming wind generators with the West Coast.
Wyoming’s wind energy industry has boomed in large part to meet demand for renewable energy in states such as California, which requires its utilities to get a third of their power from renewable sources by 2020.
Gridflex, as an “early stage developer,” would look to sell the facilities to a utility or power company before construction begins, Shapiro said.
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