CHEYENNE - An Idaho company is looking to build several water reservoirs around the state as a way to store excess power generated by Wyoming's mushrooming wind energy industry.
Boise-based Gridflex is looking to start work in the next few years on reservoirs near Glenrock, Medicine Bow and northern Carbon County as so-called "pumped-storage" facilities.
The storage facilities, which could cost $750 million to build, will look to solve a key problem with wind energy generators: they don't provide a steady, regular flow of electricity.
Sometimes the wind blows so strongly the generators provide more electricity than transmission lines can handle; when the wind stops, no energy is generated at all.
In a pumped-storage facility, two reservoirs are built at different elevations. When the wind blows strong, the excess energy is used to pump water into the upper reservoir. When the wind dies down, the water is let out into the lower reservoir through turbines, generating hydroelectric power to compensate for the reduced wind power generation.
Pumped-storage facilities have been around for decades, but because of lack of demand no new facilities have been built in the United States since the early 1990s, said Gridflex's Matthew Shapiro, who outlined his company's plans at a Wyoming Infrastructure Authority meeting Tuesday in Cheyenne.
But with the rise of renewable energy in the past few years, Shapiro said, suddenly there's a need to store large amounts of energy in an efficient way.
Gridflex has received preliminary permits from federal regulators to proceed construction on reservoirs along Deer Creek southwest of Glenrock and near the town of Medicine Bow in southern Wyoming, Shapiro said.
If all goes according to plan, Shapiro said, construction on the Deer Creek and Medicine Bow facilities could start by 2015.