Turbines spin in a Wyoming wind farm.

Turbines spin in a Wyoming wind farm. (CASPER STAR-TRIBUNE | DAN CEPEDA)

Wyoming — already the site for the nation’s biggest wind farm project — would be home to another $8 billion wind farm under a proposal unveiled by four companies Tuesday.

The project, backed by Duke Energy Corp., Dresser-Rand Group and two others, would consist of a 2,100-megawatt wind farm in southeast Wyoming, a 525-mile power line and an energy storage facility.

Phil Anschutz’s Denver-based Power Company of Wyoming already is developing a $9 billion, 10,000-megawatt wind farm in south-central Wyoming and 725-mile TransWest Express transmission line.

Both projects are aiming to sell their power to California utilities.

“They are both trying to serve the same market, but there are some big renewable energy demands in California,” said Loyd Drain, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority.

California has the highest renewable energy standard in the nation for its utilities — requiring 33 percent of their electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The new project will be near Chugwater, about 40 miles north of Cheyenne. But its major innovation would be its ability to store wind energy hundreds of miles away at a $1.5 billion energy storage site inside caverns in Utah.

Energy would be stored through a compressed-air system using four caverns carved out of underground salt formations, similar to a system that has been used in Alabama since the early 1990s.

“This project would be the 21st century’s Hoover Dam,” said Jeff Meyer of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, one of the companies behind the plan.

The Hoover Dam, completed in 1936, produces hydroelectric power for Nevada, Arizona and California.

The success of the Wyoming wind project, however, 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 to build it.

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

The developers said they plan to submit the blueprint to the Southern California Public Power Authority by early 2015.

Energy demand in Los Angeles is projected to rise as much as 18 percent by 2024, according to the California Energy Commission.

The Anschutz project has been in development since 2006 and has already cleared several state and U.S. regulatory hurdles.

Kara Choquette, a spokeswoman for the Power Company of Wyoming, said in an e-mail, “Our policy is not to comment on specific proposed projects, especially prior to initiation of the formal permitting processes.”

The Power Company of Wyoming’s Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, near Rawlins, is “well-advanced in its federal permitting process,” she said.

The TransWest Express project is also moving ahead with a final decision from federal regulations expected early next year, Choquette said.

“I may be an optimist,” the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority’s Drain said, ” but I think Wyoming is going to sell a lot of wind power to California.”