Wind Energy Proposal Would Light Los Angeles Homes

Source: By MICHAEL R. BLOOD and MEAD GRUVER Associated Press   • Posted: Friday, September 26, 2014

LOS ANGELES — Sep 23, 2014, 8:06 PM ET

If approved and financed, the sprawling venture would produce clean power equivalent to the output of a large nuclear power plant by creating one of the country’s largest wind farms near Cheyenne, a huge energy storage site inside Utah caverns and a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting them.

“This would certainly be one of the most ambitious and expensive energy infrastructure projects we have seen,” said Travis Miller, an industry analyst for investment research giant Morningstar Inc. “Energy storage, paired with renewable energy, has been the holy grail of utilities and energy companies.”

Jeff Meyer of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, one of the companies behind the plan, described it as “the 21st century’s Hoover Dam,” referring to the 726-foot high span across the Colorado River that for decades has produced hydroelectric power for Nevada, Arizona, and California.

The announcement came on the same day that President Barack Obama pressed world leaders to follow the United States’ lead on climate change in a one-day United Nations summit aimed to gather support for a climate change treaty to reduce heat-trapping pollution.

The new proposal, with a tentative completion date of 2023, would potentially generate twice as much energy as the 1930s-era dam. Success hinges on a string of uncertainties, including clearing government regulatory hurdles and striking agreements to sell the power that would be essential to secure financing.

With potential shifts in government policy, environmental regulation and the economics of producing green power “any infrastructure project that looks out nine, ten years, has a lot of uncertainties,” Miller, the analyst, said.

Pathfinder Energy, Magnum Energy, Dresser-Rand and Duke-American Transmission Co. said in a statement they plan to submit the blueprint to the Southern California Public Power Authority by early 2015.

California agency officials said they were unaware of the proposal. The authority has been seeking proposals to supply the Los Angeles region with renewable power required under state law.

The new plan “would be competing with 200 other proposals,” said Steven Homer, the director of project management for the authority, whose members deliver electricity to approximately 2 million customers.

Wind development in Wyoming’s wide expanses has surged in the past decade as companies and state officials seek cleaner alternatives to coal.

The proposed wind power development near Chugwater would be a boon to the sleepy ranching town of 216 residents nestled below sandstone bluffs on the high prairie.

A decade ago, in a desperate bid to revive their economically depressed community, town officials sold city lots for $100 apiece on the condition that the buyer would build a house and live there at least two years. Results were mixed, at best: Chugwater’s population dropped 11 percent from 2000 to 2012, even as Wyoming’s overall economy grew and population increased.

If completed, it would become Wyoming’s second-largest wind power project. The biggest is a 1,000-turbine site planned by The Anschutz Corp. That project near Saratoga, in south-central Wyoming, is the largest under development in the U.S.