GREEN RIVER - Wyoming has world-class winds, the necessary financial investment, and the proposed projects on board to help meet the demand for electricity, which experts predict will rise by 40 percent over the next two decades.

Wyoming wind energy projects include the massive, 1,000-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind projects proposed for Carbon County and the 236-turbine White Mountain wind energy project proposed near Rock Springs.

A new transmission line through southwest Wyoming aims to help move all that newly created, wind-generated power to markets in the Southwest, officials involved in the effort said.

The proposed $3 billion TransWest Express Transmission project could generate several hundred jobs during the line's construction through Sweetwater County, which could begin as early as 2013, officials said.

The Sweetwater construction phase could also generate more than $1 million in property tax revenue for the county's coffers.

"We think (the new transmission line) is a pretty good way for us to meet that expected demand" in the Southwest, Garry Miller, TransWest Express LLC director of land and environment, told Sweetwater County Commissioners during a meeting Tuesday.

"Wyoming is an awful long ways from the population centers that require the power … and we need to develop this transmission infrastructure to get the wind to the load, so to speak," Miller said.

"It's an advantage that Wyoming does have some of the best winds in the nation, but the disadvantage for Wyoming is that it's so far from the markets," he said. "We don't want a stranded resource and this (transmission line) should help."

The approximately 776-mile-long, high-voltage line would originate near Rawlins in Carbon County, run through southeastern Sweetwater County into Colorado and down to substations located in southern Nevada near Las Vegas, according to plans.

Miller estimated the express line, when completed in late 2014, would provide for 3,000 megawatts of energy.

The wind-generated electricity would be sold to emerging renewable energy markets in the Southwest, including Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.

Miller said those states have all recently adopted standards that require utilities to meet a portion of their overall customer energy supply with renewable energy. "This should really strengthen the electrical system in the Western grid," he said.

Steel lattice towers

More than half of the best-quality wind resources in the continental United States are in Wyoming, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory data.

The state has been aggressively pursuing wind energy generation over the past few years. Wind energy projects in Converse, Carbon and Uinta counties added nearly 500 megawatts of new wind energy production in Wyoming in 2008.

Officials say in all, power developers are poised to add enough wire to the Western grid to enable nearly 10,000 megawatts of new electrical generation in and around Wyoming over the next decade or less.

Miller said the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind energy projects will generate an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts per year.

He said company plans call for constructing about 330 turbines each year during the anticipated three, year-long construction phases of the project. Work on the Sierra Madre portion of the project could begin in 2011, Miller said.

The company estimates it will take three years to build the TransWest Express line, which could be in service by 2014 depending upon permitting.

The transmission line would be constructed of 100-to 180-feet tall, steel-lattice pole towers, according to plans.

Officials said upwards of 1,000 total workers could be employed during the construction phases.

Miller said the projected cost of Sweetwater County's portion of construction was about $136 million. He said the project could generate approximately $1.1 million in property taxes during the county's one-year construction timeline.

Miller said the Bureau of Land Management will hold a scoping meeting later this summer prior to beginning work on an environmental impact statement on the project.

Officials noted a study released last summer by independent electrical transmission developer National Grid said large-scale wind generation and solar panels are the best ways to meet the growing demands for renewable energy in the Southwest.

The study suggested that Wyoming is a prime location for generating wind energy, despite the huge investment that will be required for interstate transmission lines to move the additional power to market.

Contact southwest Wyoming bureau reporter Jeff Gearino at 307-875-5359 or gearino@tribcsp.com


News Tracker

Last we knew: In March 2008, the Anschutz Corp. announced it was taking over the TransWest Express Transmission project from National Grid. A portion of the proposed transmission line will run through part of Sweetwater County.

The latest: Company officials updated the Sweetwater County Commissioners on Tuesday about the project, which is expected to provide for an estimated 3,000 megawatts of wind energy generation.

What's next: The Bureau of Land Management is beginning work on an environmental impact statement of the project, which should be completed by 2010.

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