Wyoming hopes to help CA meet renewable energy goal

Wind turbinesGov. Jerry Brown’s announcement at his January “State of the State” speech that he wanted California to have 50 percent of its electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030 won applause from environmentalists around the nation and strong support from majority Democrats in the state Legislature. But it also triggered excitement in Wyoming, a state with renewable energy resources that are far greater than its needs. This account is from the Casper Star-Tribune:

Roughly 1,000 miles away in Wyoming, the developers of what would be the nation’s largest on-shore wind farm quickly caught word of the proposal.


California has long represented the holy grail for the Power Company of Wyoming, the Anschutz Corp. subsidiary that has proposed building the 3,000 megawatt Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind farm in Carbon County.


California [already had] a mandate that requires 33 percent of its power come from renewable sources by 2020. And with almost 39 million residents in need of electricity, that represents a potentially hefty sum of green electrons.


The problem for wind developers in Wyoming, is Brown and other California policymakers have insisted the Golden State meet its 33 percent mark with power generated from inside the state. California is projected to reach its 2020 benchmark on time.


But Brown’s inaugural address left many wondering if the four-term governor was coming around to the idea of out-of-state renewables.


“They’ve always said if they raised their renewable portfolio, Wyoming would have a place in that new demand,” said Loyd Drain, the executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority.


Drain has spent the last five years lobbying California policymakers on the virtues of Wyoming wind.


“They’re going to look to us, I do believe,” he said.

Wind patterns in two states are opposite

Wyoming’s interest in supplying California is backed up by a pioneering study that looks at wind patterns, an important factor, given the great concern about renewable energy being erratic and unreliable as a 24/7/365 source of power.

A new University of Wyoming study further demonstrates that combining the strengths of Wyoming wind with California wind and solar will reduce the intermittency of renewable energy and smooth the power supply — leading to benefits for utilities and energy consumers alike.


It turns out that Wyoming’s and California’s wind patterns are rather opposite, and that means that they’re complimentary. When one is active, the other isn’t. Based on a yearly average, California wind is strongest at night, while Wyoming wind is strongest during the day and peaks in the afternoon — coincident with the time when the sun is beginning to set while the electric load is still increasing into the evening hours.


“Although the benefits of geographic diversity to renewable energy have been suggested for some time, only recently have there been attempts to quantify these benefits,” says the study’s author, Jonathan Naughton, a UW professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Wind Energy Research Center. “The renewable energy quality metrics proposed in this study are a start at being able to characterize different combinations of renewable energy sources. The result of applying these metrics to energy produced from Wyoming wind and California renewables provides a quite compelling case for geographic diversity.”

But whether this intriguing study and Wyoming’s strong interest will translate into the state becoming a California energy supplier is very much up in the air. Solar power is expanding so quickly in California that utilities are making what appear to be barely disguised attempts to make it a less attractive option for homeowners and businesses considering installing solar panels, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday. If solar panels keep coming down in price, Wyoming officials’ assumption that their wind power supplies would be attractive to California on cost grounds appears shaky.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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