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Wind Energy

A pumpjack is seen in front of several wind turbines outside of Rolling Hills.

Have an event, trend or general energy happening you’d like to see in the Energy Journal newsletter? Send it to Star-Tribune energy reporter Heather Richards at heather.richards@trib.com. Sign up for the newsletter at www.trib.com/energyjournal

Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $60.19, Brent (ICE) $70.18

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $3.35, Wyoming Pool $3.30, Opal $3.27

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 1,081, Wyoming 30

Quote of the Week 

“This is the new big reason that coal is being driven out of the market." 

-- Rob Godby, of the University of Wyoming's Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy, on the coal fleet's struggle to compete with cheap renewables. 

Coal vs. oil

Peabody got another win in the battle over who gets to develop on a patch of land at the North Antelope Rochelle mining complex near Wright when a federal appeals board lifted a stay on the coal company.

Oil firm Berenergy has a handful of wells near the end of their primary production that are in the way of the coal's mining plan. The dispute over whether Berenergy keeps production going or whether its wells get plugged to let Peabody mine will likely continue in either the courts or before the Interior Board of Land Appeals. 

Cheaper and cheaper  

Everybody knows wind is cheap and developing new wind farms is cheap, but the cost of new wind has fallen so far that it is competing with existing coal plants. Meaning in some cases it's cheaper to build a new wind project, finance, construction, operation and decommissioning, than it is to keep some coal plants burning.

In other news...

Oil prices fell for the 10th day Friday, the longest consistent slide since the mid-1980s as the market considers oversupply. Always bullish, Phil Flynn, of the PRICE Futures Group in Chicago, wrote in a note to investors Friday that "the market ignores the bullish fundamentals and only focuses on bearish things that are yet to come."

Looks like Vepica Corp is a 50 percent shareholder on Viridis Eolia's potential 800-turbine Shirley Basin wind project and will head up engineering and construction. Little else to report on Viridis' advances with that project for the time being. 

Failed to mention last week that Blackjewel LLC has applied for the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr coal mine permits. The company, formed to take over the two mines, has been slow to lay down bonding on the mines, leaving the reclamation obligations for the mines on Contura Energy's shoulders. 

There's likely to be pushback on the permit transfer from landowners in the northern PRB due to Blackjewel's patchy environmental record in Appalachian coal. 

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has launched an app with WellFinder that tracks oil, gas, coal, EOR and water injection wells across the state in a map form. There's not a ton of detail on the wells within the app, but with the API number and location it's easy to plug that in on the OGCC website and learn more. 

Basin Electric Power Cooperative noted in its annual meeting last week that the layoffs and cost cutting, as evidenced in the 50-employee buyouts at the Laramie River Power Station recently, were a necessity for the business going forward. 

"The reduction in force we went through at the end of this summer was difficult on all of us, but we will come through this stronger and leaner,” said CEO Paul Sukut said. “The changes we are making today will allow us to serve electricity to our member-owners at a competitive rate, even as our membership continues to grow.”

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Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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