CHEYENNE – State officials hope scientific and economic data could convince states, such as Colorado, to purchase wind energy originating from Wyoming.
The Wyoming Infrastructure Authority Board heard presentations Wednesday on a pair of recently released reports that tout the benefits of exporting wind energy out of the state.
The studies detail the feasibility and the economic benefits if wind farms and transmission lines built in Wyoming could help power Colorado’s electric grid.
The authors of the reports, which were both released in April, formally presented their findings during the WIA’s quarterly board meeting in Cheyenne.
Jonathan Naughton, director of the University of Wyoming’s Wind Energy Research Center, was responsible for the first report that examined the difference in wind patterns in Wyoming and Colorado.
He said several sites in Wyoming record peak wind strengths at different times than most sites in Colorado.
He said this means that adding Wyoming’s wind energy to Colorado’s electric grid would reduce the volatility of the system and reduce costs.
“The idea is that if we can take different resources from different locations and combine them, (the energy cycles) don’t tend to go up and down at the same time,” he said. “In other words, a wind plant here in Wyoming and a wind plant in southern Colorado tend to have different peaks and valleys in production at different times.”
He said sites near Wheatland and Chugwater showed some of the best diversity when paired with sites in Colorado.
Naughton said it could cost Colorado hundreds of millions of dollars each year because they need to use non-renewable energy sources to supplement their grid during the down periods.
“So this was just a first cut to show what the benefits are of (wind) diversity, and how that can translate into real dollars so policymakers, companies and power distributors can make better decisions,” he said.
The second study was conducted by the federal government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It explored the economic benefits of a proposed transmission project that would send energy generated from Wyoming’s wind and natural gas resources to Colorado’s electric grid.
The report found that such a project could provide an economic benefit of $1.5 billion to Wyoming and $2.2 billion to Colorado over a 20-year period.
Eric Lantz, a senior research analyst with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said Colorado has enough wind energy resources to fuel its own demand. But he said the report shows that Colorado can still benefit even if it uses power from outside of its borders.
Both reports were commissioned by the WIA and largely paid for through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Loyd Drain, executive director of the WIA, said similar studies have been a key marketing tool in trying to convince California to use Wyoming wind energy to meet its energy demands.
“That study has been a centerpiece in our outreach to California,” he said. “Lots of folks are listening.”