Renewable energy projects forge ahead in Wyoming despite pandemic
Renewable energy sources have contributed to more of the nation’s electricity supply than coal this spring, despite a national slowdown in electricity demand.
May 11, 2020
Renewable energy sources have contributed to more of the nation’s electricity supply than coal this spring, despite a national slowdown in electricity demand, according to new data analyzed by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. Low-cost and readily available wind, solar and hydropower energy supplied more electricity to the market than coal for the entire month of April, according to the energy transition think tank.
Coal-fired power appears to have taken the biggest hit among electricity suppliers during the pandemic, making up just 15 percent of the nation’s electricity share on certain days last month. Renewable energy contributions have been largely unaffected by the pandemic due in part to the sources’ low cost and immediate availability when electricity demand wanes.
“The wind is out there, and it’s always one of the first (types of energy) to dispatch, because there are no marginal costs of producing it,” explained Jonathan Naughton, a leading wind energy scientist at the University of Wyoming. Despite renewable energy sources taking the lead in the electricity sector this spring, several new wind and solar projects appear to be battling with delays fueled by the virus too, as obtaining necessary permits or supplies has become more difficult. But Wyoming wind projects appear to still be on track this year, despite the historic economic upheaval in recent months.
As the state’s largest utility, Rocky Mountain Power owns about a dozen wind projects in Wyoming and has several power purchase agreements with companies overseeing a number of additional wind farms in the state, according to its most recent integrated resource plan. And Rocky Mountain Powers’s Energy Vision 2020 — a $3.1 billion renewable energy initiative launched in 2017 — is still on track to be completed by the end of the year, according to Spencer Hall, the utility’s spokesman.
“Despite pressure on project timelines due to COVID-19, Rocky Mountain Power plans to complete the Energy Vision 2020 projects by the end of this year,” Hall told the Star-Tribune.
Several wind projects — TB Flats I and II, Ekola Flats and Cedar Springs — will come into service by the end of the year, equipping the state with an additional 1,150 megawatts in wind generation capacity. Recently, Rocky Mountain Power also fully acquired the state’s first wind facility, Foot Creek in Carbon County, as part of its plan to increase the site’s power capacity by 60 percent. The company’s repowering projects at Dunlap and Foot Creek I facilities are still set to be wrapped up by December too.
The utility’s enormous undertaking to retrofit Wyoming with state-of-the-art wind power and build necessary transmission lines is currently employing 900 workers, according to Hall.