Solar competition clouds Wyoming wind energy plans

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) A major Wyoming wind project designed to deliver renewable energy to California faces growing competition from solar power.

Solar development alone could succeed in meeting California's renewable energy standard, which will require half of the state's electricity to come from clean, renewable sources by 2030, Power Company of Wyoming vice president and general counsel Roxane Perruso told Wyoming legislators in Casper last week.

"We have a huge issue in California in that Californians would like to keep all of the development and buy all of their power from within their borders," Perruso said.

California's requirement has been a big driver of Power Company of Wyoming's plans to build one of the largest wind farms in the U.S. in southern Wyoming.

Advertisement

Road work for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm began last year. The first of as many as 1,000 wind turbines could go up as soon as next year.

The project has taken about a decade to go through permitting. To date, Power Company of Wyoming parent company The Anschutz Corp, has spent nearly $100 million on both the wind farm and a proposed transmission line linking Wyoming to the Southwest, the Casper Star-Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/2gDp12v).

A lot has changed over the past decade, from the introduction of a wind production tax in Wyoming to the sunset of a federal tax subsidy, Perruso said.

"We've had substantial changes not only on the tax side and things going on in Wyoming, but also at the national level and now in the market area of California," she said. "We call it the missing buyer syndrome."

Electricity demand remains but the company is "caught in a limbo," she added.

Meanwhile, a federal wind energy production tax credit is on track to drop annually until it sunsets in 2022. Many companies have been hustling to build and remain qualified for a 10-year extension made available by Congress.

Power Company of Wyoming would need to maintain continuous work on the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre project's 500-turbine first phase to qualify for the extension.

___

Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com