Field of Dreams II – Starring Industrial Wind

Ready! Fire! Aim! – or in industrial wind LLC lingo – Get Subsidies! Build! Outta Here!

From the Business Week article, “Wyoming group studies tying wind farms to grid“:  “There’s lots of wind farms built, being built or proposed, but the transmission system in Wyoming has limitations because it was never designed initially for this renewable expansion,” said Robert Henke of ICF International, a Colorado firm hired to work on the project.

Sound a little crazy?  Not for the wind business:  “Transmission developers with plans to send Wyoming wind power to western states hungry for renewable energy are trying to figure out how to connect scattered wind farms with proposed export power lines.

The Wyoming Infrastructure Authority formed the Wind Collector and Transmission Task Force last summer to develop a coordinated system for gathering power from dispersed wind farms.”

So what did this gang come up with?  “The task force presented the first stage of the collector system study at a meeting of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority. Henke stressed that the study’s designs are conceptual, developed by engineers behind desks without trying to predict the specific location and size of future wind development in the state.”

Wait a minute!  Oh, the old “designs are conceptual, developed by engineers behind desks without trying to predict the specific location and size of future wind development in the state disclaimer? Trouble’s a brewin’!  Sounds to me like the “more money later” seed’s been planted.

But back to connecting the dots (turbines).  What groups are working on this little issue?  “The task force includes representatives from the Infrastructure Authority, the Western Area Power Administration and companies with proposals to build major east-west transmission lines originating in Wyoming: PacifiCorp, TransCanada, TransWest Express and LS Power.”

Darn, that’s a lot of horsepower!  What did they come up with?  “Each of the companies is in the pre-construction stages of developing multibillion-dollar transmission lines that, if all were fully built, would have the capacity to move 15,000 megawatts to stations in Idaho or southern Nevada. The conceptual collector system would include more than a thousand miles of line, built in stages, to move power to the company’s export hubs.”

Yes, but that’s a little too much “pre-construction” “developing” “that ifandwould have” if you ask me.  Plus, whenever you throw the word “conceptual” in the same sentence with “thousands of miles of line, built in stages, to move power to the company’s hubs,” it starts to sound complicated.  Anyway, how did that first draft work out?  “”When we first drew drawings of an uncoordinated development of the collector system, we called it the spaghetti drawing,” said Bill Hosie of TransCanada. “There were lines going every which way, which would never fly past the permitting parts of the work.

Hey, didn’t anyone know wind plants were being built?  Maybe wonder what those long things were on the multi-axle trailers flying down the highway?  You would think someone would ask about plans to actually use the trickle of energy that pops out of the contraptions when a gust accidentally bumps a blade.

Every time I see planning like this I think of wasted money.  It’s got to be costly doing large projects backwards.  “One of those difficult areas will be paying for the construction and operation of a collector system. Henke’s presentation estimated the cost of the system at between $2.5 billion and $4 billion for labor and materials alone. That doesn’t include the costs of financing, permitting or acquiring right of way.”

Gee!  Wonder where they’ll get all that money?  “The project may require a public-private partnership of some kind, task force members said.”  Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

So, what other surprises do you have for us?  “Steve Ellenbecker, the Infrastructure Authority’s executive director, said the task force has received a $248,000 Department of Energy grant to continue the collector system study. The money will be used to develop commercial structure options, update Wyoming’s energy corridor map and analyze the use of natural gas-fired power plants to supplement wind power on transmission lines.”

Darn, that DOE is pretty generous.  Wonder where they get their money?

Here’s the entire Business Week article for your convenience:  Wyoming group studies tying wind farms to grid

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