A utility has just put its largest wind farm online in its system here in Wyoming. The TB Flats wind farm, located in Carbon County in southern Wyoming, can generate up to 503.2 megawatts (MW) of power from 132 wind turbines. Based on its original permit application from 2018, this could power around 152,000 homes. This is the latest project to go live from Pacificorp’s Energy Vision 2020 plan which has created more than 1,000 MW of new wind power. Cooper McKim of Wyoming Public Radio speaks with utility spokesman Dave Eskelsen.
Dave Eskelsen: This is the last wind project to be put online, stemming from our Energy Vision 2020 project. And it was a key element of our strategy stemming from the Integrated Resource Plan of 2017. And being able to seize credits from Production tax for these projects greatly reduces the cost to our customers. So we wanted to be able to take advantage of that for 2020. And, of course, in addition to the three new wind projects, there was the resupply of all our existing wind projects, as well as the completion of some very important segments of the Energy Transport Project. Gateway. And all of this has been done now.
Cooper McKim: Okay, so this is really a concluding moment for Rocky Mountain Power?
Eskelsen: Well it is. There are some details on the construction and commercial operation details that we are doing around these projects. So, there are a few more details to go before things really get done. But all of these wind projects are now producing electricity.
McKim: In my head, when all these turbines come online, it’s a dramatic flip of the switch, where everything slowly starts to come true. What is it actually?
Eskelsen: Well, in general, it’s a process. Once the turbines themselves are built, they go through a trial period. Each. And connections are made to the substation on the site where the output of all these different turbines is gathered and put on the company’s transmission network.
And then, of course, there are control systems to be tested. It’s not like it’s a big switch that has been flipped. But usually, when these projects are done, there’s a point where they’re past the testing phase and the operational phase, and then there’s a period of time where they’re sort of running in test mode, but they’re producing electricity for customers. And then once all of those final arrangements have been made, we classify them as commercially operational. And that hasn’t happened for TB Flats yet, but it will happen soon.
McKim: The Energy Vision 2020 plan was one thing, is this proposal for a broader renewal of the national vision … part of a larger next step?
Eskelsen: Well, one of the things that has really happened in the last three or four rounds of integrated resource planning is that the economics of renewable energy, and renewable energy with storage, performed very well in terms of overall cost to clients, which is one of the main metrics we use in our resource planning.
The other big indicator we have is reliability. So when we plan for the future, we try to anticipate what our customers will need in 10 to 20 years. Now, that’s pretty hard to predict exactly. But we try to make the best possible predictions. And that’s also one of the reasons the resource plan is updated every two years. Because it always changes. And we want to be able to make sure that our planning is updated regularly, to deliver what customers need, when they need it.
Balancing the day-to-day, hour-to-hour customer needs against our production, as this has to be balanced, every minute of every day, is an essential part of our job.
McKim: Okay, thanks Dave.
Eskelsen: Okay thank you so much.