Wyoming Leads Clean-Energy Technology

With one gust at a time, Wyoming embraces clean-energy initiatives, leads the way in research, innovation.

By
Michaela Jackson
On Sunday, September 11, 2011 - 18:57

Wyoming is at the forefront of clean-energy technology, harnessing abundant natural resources to provide power throughout the West.

“We have a pretty simple mission, and that’s to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy,” says Tom Fuller, manager of state energy programs for the Wyoming Business Council.

Wind Power System Initiatives

A state known for its rich oil and coal reserves, Wyoming is also well endowed with opportunities to generate low- or no-emission energy, as anyone who’s ever tried to fly a kite in the southeastern quadrant of the state can attest.

“Wind is renewable. And it’s highly renewable in Wyoming,” Fuller says.

The initiative to develop wind-power generation systems is rapidly maturing, as commercial wind farms sprout up across the state. It's an initiative that could have powerful effect on Wyoming's economic development and quality of life.

Wyoming Companies Working to Assist in Development

TransWest Express, with its parent company Anschutz Corp., plans to build a $3 billion, 900-mile-long high-voltage line that would allow 3,000 megawatts of wind energy generated in Wyoming to be shipped through the Southwest.

Another Anschutz affiliate, Power Company of Wyoming, plans a wind facility in Carbon County that would generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity.

Rocky Mountain Power is aggres­sively working toward a wind-energy capability of 1,000-plus megawatts, with another 1,500 megawatts planned for the future. A typical home uses roughly 10 megawatt hours each year.

“While the cost of wind-energy resources has historically been higher than other more traditional forms of electric generation, pricing for wind resources has become more competitive in recent years and Rocky Mountain Power has been able to identify and pursue cost-effective wind resources we believe will benefit our customers,” says Jeff Hymas, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power.

In mid-2008, the company’s only oper­ating wind project in Wyoming was Foote Creek Rim I near Arlington.

The venture is co-owned with another company, and Rocky Mountain’s portion generates enough electricity to serve some 9,500 customers.

By the end of the year, five additional projects are expected to be online in Converse, Carbon and Albany counties.

The Wind Energy Research Center at UWY

The Wind Energy Research Center at the University of Wyoming is working to integrate the growing industry with educational initiatives, planting seeds to grow the next generation of scientists and technicians.

“Equally important to our research mission is our work to train part of this workforce that’s going to help out, to make this industry go,” says Jonathan Naughton, center director. “We’re trying to go to the next level as the industry goes to the next level.”

Though wind is certainly a prominent face of Wyoming’s alternative energy drive, it is by no means the only avenue being pursued.

“Not just wind, but all alternative energies are looking more attractive,” Naughton says.

“Wind has made it to the point that it’s economically competitive, and that’s why it’s growing so rapidly. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be investing in these other technologies.”

Western Biomass Energy in Upton, Wy.

In January 2008, Western Biomass Energy began producing cellulosic ethanol from the ponderosa pine of Eastern Wyoming. The $8 million facil­ity in Upton produces about 1.5 million gallons of ethanol each year.

Continued efforts to commercialize geothermal, geosource, hydro and solar energy are also under way as energy becomes a major player in Wyoming's economic development.

“We have every kind of energy you can imagine in Wyoming,” Fuller says.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michaela Jackson has worked as a reporter for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as a freelance writer for a variety of regional and national magazines.