PCW Gets Into The Wind Business In A Big Way

A subsidiary of the Anschutz Corp. is entering the wind business in a very big way. The Power Company of Wyoming LLC (PCW) has proposed to build a 1,000-turbine wind project on a ranch in Carbon County, Wyo.

Wyoming's rich wind resources – it's ranked in the top 10 for potential capacity by the American Wind Energy Association – and low population were, in part, reasons why the PCW decided to develop this project.

The Anschutz Corp. is known for its entertainment venues, such as the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but the company is rooted in the oil and natural-gas field, making the transition to wind power a natural fit, says CEO and president Bill Miller.

‘Our history is with building large infrastructure projects. Whether it be in the entertainment business or in the oil and gas field, or developing pipeline infrastructure – we develop large, complex projects,’ he notes.

The company decided to enter the renewable energy arena a few years ago.

‘About five years ago, we took a hard look at the future of the natural-resource business and concluded that renewable energy is important,’ Miller explains. ‘It's something that is here to stay. It is a business sector that is going to have growth and opportunity, and we like the idea.’

The project is proposed to be built on a ranch that is located on a mix of private and federal lands. The ranch encompasses appproximately 315,000 acres, and the wind project is estimated to take up about one-third of the land.

‘We happen to have some of the very best wind in Wyoming on this ranch, so it's a great place to build a wind farm,’ says Kara Choquette, spokesperson for PCW, adding that the site has consistent Class 5, 6 and 7 wind resources.

The land is located near the historic Union Pacific railway corridor and along Interstate 80, which will make delivery of supplies easier, she adds.

‘It's a great opportunity for us as a private company to work with the federal government on trying to achieve some of their own renewable energy objectives in terms of getting more megawatts of renewable energy on federal land,’ Choquette says.

Turbine models or vendors have not yet been selected; however, PCW is in discussions with major suppliers. Depending on the type and size of the wind turbines chosen, the company expects the project to have a capacity of 2,000 MW to 3,000 MW.

‘Technology is advancing quite fast, and we want to have the latest and the best available,’ says Miller. ‘Because of the size and scope, it's reasonable to assume that we might have more than one turbine vendor.’

Actual construction of the project is still a long way off. Because the land is located on a combination of private and federal lands, the company has to go through a lengthy and complex permitting process.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently analyzing the project through an environmental impact statement (EIS), a draft of which is expected to be released in January. Assuming that the draft EIS and other permits are obtained as currently anticipated, construction should begin in 2012, with power delivery slated to begin in 2015.

Miller anticipates a possible three-year phased construction period. Wyoming has a shorter construction window because of the harsh winters, and wildlife and game bird stipulations in the state.

Choquette says the project will be a boon to the residents of Carbon County. She estimates that PCW will ultimately contribute $600 million to $800 million in taxes.

‘We'd easily be one of the top-five private employers,’ she notes.

Like many other states that are rich in wind resources, Wyoming lacks transmission capacity. The low population means that all the power from PCW's project can be exported to other states, but not without more transmission.

‘There is some balancing that can be done to allow some projects to be developed but it's not a huge amount – it really doesn't move the needle for us,’ says Miller.

Another Anschutz Corp. subsidiary has stepped in to help resolve the lack of transmission in the state. TransWest Express LLP has proposed a 750-mile, high-voltage direct-current transmission line that would run from south central Wyoming and end in Nevada. This project is also going through an EIS process and is expected to begin construction in 2013.


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