Lost energy and lost money for Wyoming may literally be water under the bridge.
Last week, a report confirmed that Wyoming is ripe for hydropower and also has done little to develop this valuable, renewable resource.
Star Tribune Energy Reporter Adam Voge said, “The Idaho National Laboratory estimates more than 500 megawatts of hydropower is yet to be developed here. Another study, by the Bureau of Reclamation, and related to government-controlled properties only, adds another 23 megawatts to the picture.”
These numbers are significant enough that the state should take a longer, more detailed look at hydropower.
Hydropower could prove to be important on several different fronts.
First, hydropower could help us diversify our energy portfolio. And while Wyoming will continue to rely on natural gas, oil and coal, Wyoming is poised to become a wind energy leader and should, if possible, add hydropower to that portfolio. In many ways, diversifying its energy portfolio is part of the key to the long-term health of Wyoming. We can’t rely on the certainty of natural gas or coal alone. Doing that may continue to put us into volatile boom and bust cycles.
Adding hydropower helps diversify the types of energy we produce and continues to mean that we rely on domestic energy more and foreign energy less.
Moreover, we’ve talked often about the need for Wyoming’s economy to diversify. Often, talks of economic diversification have intentionally and rightfully moved away from energy sectors. We can see evidence of that diversification initiative as Wyoming becomes home to high-tech companies. And yet, for all the good reasons Wyoming needs to diversify in order to have a robust economy, it also needs to make sure that its energy sector is also diversified.
One of the obstacles that has kept hydropower from developing more robustly in the state has been bureaucracy and too many hurdles for development.
Voge reported, “Some possible projects have been left undeveloped because of technological concerns. Bureaucracy has blocked others, adding review and application processes too expensive for some small developers to handle.”
If the state is serious about developing this new energy source, which could be a boon for the economy as well as continuing to add power to the grid, it needs to figure out how to make the permitting and review process less cumbersome.
We believe Gov. Matt Mead’s energy policy is a step in that direction. However, if hydropower is going to become a larger player, we most continue to look for ways to encourage this renewable resource. In other words, it must be seen as an economic driver. And, it could mean the state, like it has with wind energy, considers economic incentives to make this a reality.
It seems like Wyoming is exceedingly good at using its natural resources. Wyoming uses its expansive lands to raise beef, sheep and even wild game herds. It uses its wind to power a green energy revolution. Now, it should harness its most precious natural resource, water, to an economic and energy advantage.