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26 April 2019

3GW US wind finally breaks through 10 years of project permissions

Another block on the US embracing wind power, apart from President Trump’s teasing denials of global warming, is the fact that the best winds are not where the largest requirement for renewable energy are. So some of the best minds in the business have to work out how to capture the average 13 mile an hour winds in Wyoming, and bring the resultant electrical energy to Nevada where they can sit on the infrastructure already in place at the Boulder dam, connecting into California, Nevada and Arizona grids.

This is in effect a big cable, and for almost 10 years various state committees across the US have been trying to approve a the project called the 730 mile TransWest Express which will bring 2,000 GW to 3,000 GW to Boulder from Wyoming and distribute it from there across the three states. This is auspicious for California with its aim to go 100% renewable by 2045.

On April the 19th the TransWest project took a huge step in that the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council approved the route and granted a permit to construct the parts on its land – much of it government owned. Similar permissions are still required from Utah, where a direct current connection will land and convert to AC, and the final point in Nevada. In total this is like granting a 730 mile railway project because of all the permits required and its size and its security requirements.

This is one of those projects that could get halted by some petty official, or someone with a genuine basis for complaint, but upon it rests billions of dollars of renewable energy. The transmission cable is expected to cost some $3 billion, and it will bring wind energy from at least the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which hopes to build 1000 wind turbines south of Rawlins Wyoming. It is likely that the transmission links, once given final permissions are given, and the wind farms, could both start on their build at around at the same time and be fully productive in 3 to 4 years. The work could begin early in 2020, which would require the remaining Utah and Nevada county permits will be completed by the year’s end, which is apparently achievable.

The transmission cable would also be in place as a temptation for other wind farm owners to be seduced by the prevailing and consistent wind conditions in Wyoming, knowing that the electricity does not have to be sold locally in order to make money and that it can reach as far as the West Coast.

Today TransWest is a subsidiary of Anschutz Corp, owned by the same billionaire, Philip Anschutz who is used to doing the same kind of thing in oil, who bought the rights to the project almost ten years ago. In turn it is the same person who owns the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. He has a lot riding on this. This is the piece of the US grid puzzle that was missing to target some of the most consistent and strong blowing winds over ground in the US.

The other place where there are strong winds is over the sea, and California is expected to grant permission to build a floating wind farm of similar size offshore from California, sometime in the next few years.