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Build begins on Wyoming-to-California power line amid growing wind power concern

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Leroy N. Soetoro

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Jun 26, 2023, 3:37:22 PM6/26/23
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RAWLINS, Wyo. (AP) — Portrait photographer Anne Brande shoots graduation
and wedding engagement photos at scenic spots throughout southeastern
Wyoming's granite mountains and sprawling sagebrush valleys. But she
worries what those views will look like in a few years, when hundreds more
wind turbines dot the landscape. Wind energy is booming here.

“Dandelions in my yard, you know, when there's four or five, it's OK,”
Brande said. “When my whole yard is dandelions, I'm just not too excited.”

In a state where being able to hunt, fish and camp in gorgeous and
untrammeled nature is a way of life, worries about spoiled views, killed
eagles and disturbed big-game animals such as elk and mule deer have grown
with the spread of wind turbines.

On Tuesday, state and federal officials beneath fluttering flags formally
broke ground on the TransWest Express, a transmission line that will move
electricity from the $5 billion, 3,000-megawatt, 600-turbine Chokecherry
and Sierra Madre wind farm to southern California, a place legally
mandated to switch to clean energy. The wind farm will be the country's
biggest yet.

Federal regulators gave the go-ahead to TransWest in April. The
International Energy Agency and other experts say wind power is crucial to
attaining a carbon-neutral world by 2050. Developers here estimate the
wind farms will prevent the emission of between 7 and 11 million tons of
carbon dioxide a year and provide enough carbon-free electricity to power
1 million homes.

“We want people to say yes — yes to clean energy in the same way that
people said yes to fossil energy,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said
at the groundbreaking that also brought out Interior Secretary Deb Haaland
and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican.

Gordon has pledged to make Wyoming not just carbon neutral but carbon
negative, looking to renewable energy and technologies such as carbon
capture to make it happen.

“As we see climate change, we know we don't have time to waste,” said
Gordon at the event on a treeless Wyoming expanse where not just TransWest
Express but two major PacifiCorp transmission lines will soon extend over
the horizon.

But in Wyoming, despite extensive wildlife studies and lengthy federal
environmental reviews, there's more skepticism about wind power than when
TransWest Express and Chokecherry and Sierra Madre were first proposed 17
years ago.

“I think it’s just as simple as too much of a good thing,” Brande said.

As elsewhere, opposition to wind farms in Wyoming correlates with
proximity to homes and cabins: Chokecherry and Sierra Madre is massive but
isolated, and has generated less opposition than some others. But Brande
and rural property owners opposed a 500-megawatt, 120-turbine wind farm
soon to be built near the Colorado state line. They lost, but the matter
reached the Wyoming Supreme Court.

The contentious county approval process included a five-hour public
hearing in a packed courtroom in Laramie in 2021. Residents expressed a
range of concerns, from turbine blades killing birds to construction
blasting damaging home foundations.

In neighboring Carbon County, the county commission on June 6 held off
permitting for a 280-megawatt, 79-turbine project called Two Rivers, after
hearing from people with concerns. Commissioners told the developers to
get federal approval first.

The local opposition to a wind farm is a recent development in an area
that previously welcomed the economic benefits with few questions, Carbon
County Commission Vice Chairman Sue Jones said. Named for its coal
reserves that once fueled steam engines, Carbon County adopted an official
seal in 2021 that features a wind turbine.

Yet county officials recently required wind farms to turn off their red
warning lights except when aircraft approach, responding to public
complaints.

The regulation wasn't retroactive. But PacifiCorp, which serves customers
in Wyoming, Utah and the Pacific Northwest, retrofitted its wind turbines
in the area with the on-and-off pilot warning system anyway, Jones said.

“The companies do try to be good neighbors," Jones said. "But it is
starting to show and it is reaching a point where maybe it’s too much.
It’s affecting wildlife habitat. It’s affecting the birds and the bats.”

In just four years, wind generation capacity in Wyoming has doubled,
adding about 600 turbines — the bulk of them in the southeast — since
2020, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Chokecherry and Sierra Madre alone will double that amount again — and at
least five more wind farms are planned, according to a 2022 University of
Wyoming report.

If they all stay on schedule, Wyoming could soon vault from 14th to among
the top five states for wind energy, though wind energy is booming
elsewhere, too.

Almost 60% of electricity generated in Wyoming, wind power included, isn't
used here but goes to other states, according to the U.S. Energy
Information Administration.

Increasingly the state's wind energy is coveted by utilities in
California, Arizona and the Pacific Northwest.

TransWest Express will move the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre electricity
732 miles (1,178 kilometers) from south-central Wyoming to just outside
Las Vegas. Along the way, it will cross northwestern Colorado and Utah,
with conversion from direct to alternating current in central Utah.

The wind farm and transmission lines, both projects of The Anschutz
Corporation owned by Denver oil and gas billionaire Phil Anschutz, are
scheduled to come online around the same time, starting in late 2027.

The transmission line's direct-current section allows efficient, long-
distance electricity transfer with no tie-ins to other power lines, while
the alternating current segment is less efficient but connects to the rest
of the grid.

Wyoming wind averages almost 13 mph (21 kph) day and night, year-round,
matching well with daytime solar generated elsewhere. But so far there
aren't a lot of ways to get wind power from Wyoming onto the western U.S.
power grid, said Roxane Perruso, TransWest Express executive vice
president and chief operating officer.

“So we’re going to enhance the ability to move renewables and other power,
carbon-free power in the future, around the grid," Perruso said.

Paralleling TransWest Express in places, Pacificorp's Gateway South
transmission lines connecting Wyoming wind farms to southern Utah are
scheduled for completion next year. Pacificorp's Gateway West lines,
already partly built across southern Wyoming, will stretch all the way to
the Pacific Northwest sometime after 2030.

While wind power benefits the climate, environmentalists are split over
its costs to wildlife. In Wyoming, wind farms pose a risk to golden eagles
and sage grouse, a chicken-sized, ground-dwelling bird that tends to avoid
high structures that can provide perching spots for predatory birds, said
Erik Molvar, of Laramie, executive director of the Western Watersheds
Project.

"The real answer is to incentivize the siting of solar panels in urban
areas where the electricity’s actually going to get used," Molvar said.

Power Company of Wyoming, the Aschutz subsidiary building Chokecherry and
Sierra Madre, spent years working with federal regulators on ways to
minimize harm to sage grouse and golden eagles, such as tweaking turbine
locations to reduce bird collisions. But eagle deaths at wind farms are a
common problem, one that often goes unprosecuted.

Wyoming's position as the country's top coal-producer and a major source
of oil and gas, meanwhile, has meant an uneasy relationship with wind at
times. Wyoming is the only state that taxes wind energy, a $1 per
megawatt-hour charge lawmakers have discussed raising to $4 or more.

And local resistance could grow. People often don’t appreciate what a wind
farm with its turbines, lights, roads, power lines and substations will
look like, said Jones, the Carbon County commissioner.

“You really have no idea what that’s like until it’s there. And then you
go, wow. It’s an industrial area. A different kind of industry, but an
industrial area,” Jones said.


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President Trump boosted the economy, reduced illegal invasions, appointed
dozens of judges and three SCOTUS justices.

Dimitris Tzortzakakis

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Jul 10, 2023, 5:54:14 AM7/10/23
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the trouble with renewable energy is they're connected either to low
voltage or to medium voltage (very rarely to high voltage) with the
hypothesis that whatever you give to an infinite bus in terms of energy,
it will be taken. that might be wrong and might cause impulses of higher
voltage that damage equipment and cause grid instabilities, causing
brown-outs. the opposite was well-known for over a century-whatever
you'll demand from an infinite bus, in terms of energy, you may take it.
and the problem is, when the wind stalls, there is no more generation of
energym and the wind-turbine generators become motors, with light
flickering and voltage instability being the main results.
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