Going Back to Cali

Wyoming-to-California wind power proposal brings heat

An exemplary battleground for old vs. new—in the form of coal vs. wind—is the state of Wyoming.

The axis is the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project: Billions have already been invested for a project that would create a huge wind farm in southern Wyoming, build a subsequent connectivity line to transport the electricity to the Eldorado Substation south of Las Vegas, and sell said power generated to California’s electric grid, where prices are much higher. There are many dimensions, motives, and interests in contention here.

The proposed grid would begin in Carbon County, Wyoming and stretch to the Eldorado Power Station south of Las Vegas—just east of the California border—where it could be distributed.

The proposed grid would begin in Carbon County, Wyoming and stretch to the Eldorado Power Station south of Las Vegas—just east of the California border—where it could be distributed.—Windpower Monthly image

Developers standpoint: A ‘conservative billionaire’, Philip Anschutz, owns the land and is developing the project. It is a large piece of land with high winds that would be ideal for a wind farm opportunity and could generate more power than the small population of Wyoming could use. Thus, it is seen as a prime investment and sales opportunity. He’d be making up to $37 per MwH with the differential in state electricity costs.

Climate standpoint: Per usual. The obvious concern of pollution; furthering the (largely supported) world efforts to combat—and prevent further— carbon emissions. The proposed wind farm would ironically be in Carbon County, Wyoming. Another large obstacle is the safety and protection of the greater sage grouse, a bird whose habitat stretches across 173 million acres in the West.

Political standpoint: Connected to the notes above. Many of Wyoming’s politicians (and residents) are not only used to getting their production from coal or natural gas (almost 70%), but have been making concerted efforts to make sure wind power, if it does exist in the state, is taxed equally. Right now, it doesn’t inherit nearly the amount of tax that traditional sources of energy do. There is also the looming instability of a new head of the EPA. Scott Pruitt’s longtime opposition to clean energy is coupled with the current administration’s immediate efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan—potentially expedited by executive orders passed this week.

In all likelihood, the project will get the full go ahead. Construction started late last year on the Anschutz-owned Chokecherry and Sierra Madre venture, and the company is in talks with utilities to buy the power and suppliers to provide about 1,000 turbines that will spin on the site. After eight years in development, the project seems to align well with the needs of California regulators and utilities, which need more wind power from out of state to augment in-state solar installations that can’t provide power during nighttime hours. To address the concern of jobs, clean energy pundits have increasingly cited the potential for offshore wind farms to be constructed by oil & gas experts.


  1. Sierra Madre Wind Project | Electrical Apparatus Magazine - January 4, 2018

    […] to the electricity markets of California, Nevada, and Arizona. If this rings a bell, this is essentially where we stood in talks about the project last winter. A new idea now proposes transmission lines to bring solar-generated electricity back  to Wyoming […]

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