Sierra Madre Wind Project

Long-developing wind project using DC to cut emissions

A large-scale energy project that has been on the docket for almost a decade appears to be moving forward, albeit at a snail’s pace. At least one catalyst in the ongoing production of Wyoming’s Sierra Madre wind project is good old DC transmission.

Power Company of Wyoming’s Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, still in development, claims it will be home to a 1,000-turbine wind farm located south of Sinclair and Rawlins in Carbon County, Wyoming when completed. Here’s a map of what the connection would look like:

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 Bureau of Land Management issued a Finding of No New Significant Impacts and a Decision Record almost one year ago on January 18, 2017, after completing the second of two site-specific Environmental Assessments covering Phase I of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. Since that time, it’s tough to gauge exactly how much more of the project has been built—but the ideas and commentary continue to fly around. As MIT’s Technology Review wrote in coverage of the project December 28, one of the key phases and a cause for deliberation is a battle for the ‘who’ and ‘what’ of infrastructure. One proposal includes a series of steel transmission towers that would stretch a high-voltage direct-current transmission line 730 miles, capable of hauling 3,000 megawatts of wind-generated power from Wyoming 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 in the form of what some are calling ‘macro-grids.’

There sure is a lot of hype. PCW’s website claims the project’s long-term “surface disturbance” will be less than 2,000 acres of a 320,000-acre ranch owned and operated by an affiliate company. “With a nameplate capacity of 3,000 megawatts, the project will ensure a reliable, competitively priced supply of renewable electricity that’s unmatched in the West.” The site also gives a preview by the numbers:

  • Up to 1,000 wind turbines, constructed in two phases
  • 3,000 MW nameplate capacity
  • Best winds in the country – Class 6-7
  • $5 billion estimated cost
  • About 50% sited on private land and 50% on federal land in Carbon County “checkerboard”


Beyond the vague language and slow timeline, the proposed magnitude of this project should be kept in perspective; as DC links between grids are not a new concept.

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