Wyo. wind farm could undercut delivery prices in Calif.

Los Angeles Times • Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Former oil and gas tycoon Bill Miller has been tasked with building a colossal wind farm in Rawlins, Wyo. It will be located on a cattle ranch owned by Anschutz Corp., the co-owner of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Once complete, this will be the largest wind generation facility in the country and, possibly, the world.

The catch: Not a single kilowatt of it would be used in Wyoming. It would instead feed into a new 750-mile transmission line to the California grid, where the electricity would help California’s efforts to mitigate global warming while most of Wyoming continues to rely on coal.

“The enviros look at us and wonder what we are all about,” Miller said. “We got into renewables because we think it is a good business.”

Wyoming provides its residents with the cheapest electricity prices in the country due to the state’s inexpensive coal-fired plants, and it taxes renewable energy. California, on the other hand, has some of the highest prices because it has the country’s most stringent renewable energy laws, according to U.S. Energy Department data.

Californians prefer to buy locally produced renewable power because it boosts state jobs, has less environmental impact, provides economic benefits and allows the state to have more control of its power grid.

But Wyoming officials say political differences should not hinder a successful business deal.

Developers of the $8 billion wind farm — set to begin construction next year — said they can produce and ship wind power to California more cheaply than Wyoming can generate on its own.

Miller said the wind is so strong in Rawlins that the facility could deliver power across four states and still be significantly cheaper than California’s renewable power projects. According to Anschutz’s research, the wind farm would undercut the power prices from some California renewable energy installations by half.

Some California politicians, however, think buying green energy from a coal-burning state is not politically feasible.

“If we are taking renewable power from Wyoming, while they burn coal, then you aren’t accomplishing very much,” said Severin Borenstein, a University of California, Berkeley, expert on the California electricity market (Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 8).