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Report: Wyoming wind would save California money

LARAMIE, Wyo. – Cheap Wyoming wind power could save California customers hundreds of millions of dollars a year, according to a report from the group that coordinates the electrical grid in the Western U.S. and Canada.

California, a growing buyer of renewable energy to meet state-set standards, would save about $600 million a year if it purchases a fifth of its renewable energy from Wyoming, according to analysis contained in the report from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council.

The study is ammunition for developers of Wyoming’s wind energy projects and transmission lines that move the energy out of the state, said Loyd Drain, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority.

Wyoming’s projects are destined to compete with projects in California, which is hoping to provide its own renewable energy, and other states that are also eying California as a buyer for their wind, hydropower and solar electricity.

“We believe all California consumers and businesses will benefit if their utilities can provide a balanced mix of energy that includes not only in-state generation but also renewable resources from efficient producers like Wyoming,” Drain said. “Wyoming still must compete to ensure California utilities seek to purchase renewable power from Wyoming.”

California will consume two-thirds of the renewable energy in the West by 2020, according to the report, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Much of that growth is driven by California’s new renewable energy standards, which require that the state gets a portion of its electricity from renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and hydropower.

The report highlighted two of Wyoming’s six major transmission projects: the 3,000-megawatt TransWest Express and the 3,000-megawatt Zephyr. The six projects are in various stages of permitting and all are expected to move wind energy out of the state.

The report’s authors called for states to look closely at the opportunities created by the growing California renewable energy market, which “should not be overlooked as states implement their own energy policies.”

Gov. Matt Mead recently announced plans to develop an energy policy for the state of Wyoming, a task for an energy subcabinet he established within his administration.

“This information is helpful in our efforts to encourage California to look to Wyoming for its renewable requirements and to see that Wyoming can efficiently provide a portion of their renewable energy tomorrow, just as Wyoming efficiently provides Californians with significant affordable energy today,” Mead was quoted as saying in a media release issued by the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority.

The report is the Western Electricity Coordinating Council’s first 10-year plan for the regional grid.