Wyoming wind held back by transmission backlog, avian deaths
- The installed price of wind energy is now largely competitive with new coal and new natural gas installations, and wind has contributed about about one-third of all new U.S. generation since 2007, but Wyoming has added no new capacity since 2010.
- Experts say Wyoming, one of the most wind-rich states, remains largely undeveloped because regulatory issues are unsettled and transmission projects that could deliver wind-generated electriciity to load centers continue to face permitting and financing obstacles.
- Additionally, the Casper Star Tribune reports that controversy over avian deaths — especially those of eagles — at wind plants across the West is holding up development as well.
Wind energy, especially for states where it is abundant, has come down precipitously in price. Lazard estimates that without subsidizes, new wind costs between $37 and $81 per MWh, while coal comes in at $66 to $151 per MWh and natural gas at $61 to $81 per MWh. But Wyoming, despite being a windy state, hasn't added any new swind capacity in five years due to difficulties siting transmission and controversy over bird dealths, the Casper Star Tribune reports.
A California federal court recently ruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to offer wind developers a 30-year eagle take permit, which would have given Wyoming developers some long-term certainty, was made without the appropriate environmental review.
Because take permits may now be for only 5 years, investors are likely to be reluctant to commit billions to development. In 2013, Duke Energy paid a $1 million settlement to the Department of Justice for raptor kills at Wyoming wind projects.
The Power Company of Wyoming continues with permitting for a proposed a 3,000 MW project, Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy continues with permitting for a proposed 2,100 MW project, and sPower continues with permitting for a proposed 80 MW project. The Tribune reports they are in areas not as affected by avian populations.
The American Wind Energy Association says it continues to fight for a more fair avian policy. It is also working for renewal of the industry’s $0.023 per kWh production tax credit before its absence impacts industry growth. Debate is ongoing.
- Casper Star Tribune Wind power, booming nationally, grinds to a halt in Wyoming