The Saratoga Sun -

Breaking wind

Rocky Mountain Power broke ground on their new wind project, Energy Vision 2020, on Wednesday

 

Mike Armstrong

The crowd listens to a speaker at the Seven Mile command station.

The wind was not blowing strong at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at the Seven Mile wind farm, owned by Rocky Mountain Power, northeast of Hanna.

It was a beautiful Wyoming spring day, with bright blue skies and puffy clouds rolling slowly by. A great day to celebrate an event for a project that is changing Carbon County.

Close to 100 people gathered to witness the groundbreaking for Energy Vision 2020 by Rocky Mountain Power.

Before the groundbreaking ceremony commenced, Invernergy, a privately-held developer and operator of sustainable energy solutions and North America's largest independent renewable power generation company, late in May transferred the Ekola Flats and TB Flats wind projects in Carbon County to PacifCorp, Rocky Mountain Power's parent company.

"Invernegy is a developer that we have worked very closely with over the last several years, particularly on the two projects close to Medicine Bow," Chad Teply, Rocky Mountain Power Senior Vice President of Strategy and Development said. "A top tier developer across the United States and we were able to transact commercially on an opportunity that transfers their development work to PacifiCorp, so now we can take that development work and expand it into an actual construction site and a real project."

The 250-MW Ekola Flats and 500-MW TB Flats wind energy projects will be giving Rocky Mountain Power a lot of power to distribute to its customers which will help keep down rates.

To give perspective, a kilowatt is a metric that equals 1,000 watts of power. Wattage, in turn, indicates how much power a device can provide over a relative amount of time. Watts and kilowatts refer to different quantities of energy and, because of this relationship between capacity and time, the terms watt-hours (Wh) or kilowatt-hours (kWh) describe energy use.

Wh and kWh define the energy used in one hour of time. The next step up from a kilowatt is a megawatt. 1 megawatt is equal to 1,000 kilowatts or 1 million watts, and the same conversion applies for Megawatt hours (MWh).

The average U.S. household uses 11,000 kWh of energy each year according to the latest data from the Energy Information Administration. Using that information, the monthly energy use is roughly 915 kWh and daily energy use is about 30 kWh for the average home in the United States.

By comparison, MWh are typically used in reference to larger-scale electricity use such as the TB Flats wind project being built. When energy is used at great scale, the terminology of choice will be MWh or even gigawatt-hours, which refers to one billion watts of power.

The two projects combined will produce enough energy to power more than 220,000 American homes.

"Seeing what the projects are going to become, is just incredible," Krista Jo Mann, Invenergy Renewable Development Director said. "They are exciting projects and the partnership with Rocky Mountain was outstanding, everyone we worked with was wonderful."

She said that Invenergy made a lot of friends in Carbon County.

"We had excellent support in both Medicine Bow, Hanna and the surrounding area in Carbon County and really appreciate everyone's help who made these projects come to fruition."

Rocky Mountain Power took over from Invenergy just in time for the groundbreaking ceremony for Energy Vision 2020.

Rita Meyer, Rocky Mountain Power Wyoming Vice President, welcomed the crowd that had come to the Seven Mile command station. After acknowledging the people attending, Meyer introduced Gary Hoogeveen, Rocky Mountain Power CEO.

"Energy Vision 2020 will help diversify Wyoming's economy, create between 1,100 and 1,600 construction jobs and add approximately $120 million in tax revenue from construction," Hoogeveen explained. "This is an exciting day."

He said the project will add around $11 million annually in tax revenue for the state of Wyoming in 2021 and will grow to around $14 million annually in 2024.

The next speaker was Teply, who agreed with Hoogeveen about it being a positive time for Rocky Mountain Power.

"This is extremely exciting because we have teams that have literally been working on this for a decade, planning and getting ready for a major project like this," Teply said. "Now we have gotten to a point that I would consider a starting line from a construction perspective, but still recognizing it is the finish line for other folks; planners, designers, modelers and all those who have conceptualized for some time."

John Johnson, Carbon County Commissioner, said he was glad the project had reached the point of groundbreaking. He thanked everyone for working together, but wanted to keep his comments short so he could welcome Carbon County historian Nancy Anderson.

"I welcome those who have never come to this seemingly desolate landscape, but it is far from a place that has been unvisited over the past century," Anderson said.

She chronicled stories of pioneers that used the Overland trail, settlers and ranchers, and how Union Pacific created a railroad which, in turn, founded towns such as nearby Medicine Bow and coal towns such as Carbon and Hanna. Anderson reminded the audience that U.S. airmail used the nearby tracks as their route when planes first started flying.

"This area has been a place where transit and energy have been dominate and now these wind projects bring a new type of transit and energy to Carbon County," Anderson concluded to loud applause.

Meyer came back to tell the attendees the ground breaking ceremony was to take place several hundred yards away from the station on a hill. She cautioned for people to be careful as they made their way over the rocky topography.

The shovels broke ground twice.

Two sets of pictures had to taken because not enough shovels were available for all chosen to break ground.

There were some jovial moments as people shoveling switched hats and digging instruments.

Teply said Rocky Mountain Power cares about the communities around the wind projects.

"From a community's impact perspective, Rocky Mountain Power takes a very focused approach, not only engaging with the industrial siting board, which is the entity in Wyoming that assesses the potential community impacts, but, maybe more importantly, Rocky Mountain Power engages top tier contractors that really maintain that responsibility day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month as we are constructing new projects or working on a re-powering project on an existing site," Teply said. "We are focused on being good corporate neighbors, immersing ourselves in the communities with respect to not only locally hired employees, but also any transient work that comes in and making sure we are adhering to all laws and making sure we are respectful."

He said he is also gratified the forthcoming project will be helping Wyoming.

"We are happy to be creating revenue for the state of Wyoming as we are transitioning, whether it is sales tax, production taxes, property taxes, ect. starting into that production mode," Teply said. "Renewable energy for PacifiCorp as a broader part of our overall portfolio that balances our thermal resources in Wyoming, renewable resources that are not only being operated today, but also added to, are a part of keeping our rates very low and continuing to serve our customers responsibly."

Hoogeveen said the diversity of Rocky Mountain Power's way of generating power is an attribute he is happy to point out.

"We are very proud of our coal plants, the business we do with coal fired plants in this state, but we are equally proud to begin to diversify our investments and energy production in the state, which I think is great for our customers and also great for the state of Wyoming."

Hoogeveen sees the Energy Vision 2020 being a very long term asset for the Cowboy State.

Mike Armstrong

Attendees wait for the ground breaking.

"It has been an exciting 10 years to get to this point. I look forward to another 10, 20, 30, 50,-100 years in all honesty, and we are thrilled to be able to partner with the organizations and contractors that are building this, the government agencies that have helped site this and permit it and then us getting together to build this for the long term," Hoogeveen said. "That is the exciting part, especially when you think about the transmission lines we are building here, will be here for decades, and what you see being built here today, we will be using these transmissions lines, but who knows what, in 30 to 50 years, these lines might be used for. It is tremendous long term investment for the state of Wyoming and we are happy to be a part of it."

Anderson got it right as she commented in her presentation, that the power of wind was changing Carbon County and the state of Wyoming.

 

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