State and federal officials have announced a 3,000-megawatt electricity transmission line, TransWest Express. The investment of $5 billion will establish a 600-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm in southern California. This can be the world’s largest wind farm in the place legally selected for shifting to clean energy.
After long withstanding opposition, the Federal regulators permitted TransWest to proceed with the project in April. According to the developers, they will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from anywhere between 7 million and 11 million tons every year. They will be able to deliver carbon-neutral electricity at an affordable price to over a million households and businesses in southwestern regions of widespread deserts of Arizona, Nevada, and California. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that wind energy will play an important role in achieving global carbon-neutral goals by 2050.
Jennifer Granholm, the Energy Secretary, said that they want people to accept clean energy in the same way they accepted fossil energy. She said this in the presence of the Governor of Wyoming, Mark Gordon, a Republican, and the Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland. Governor Gordon has taken a ledged to make Wyoming a carbon-negative state and is relying on renewable energy technologies like carbon capture to realise his goals.
Gordon said at the event that, considering the current climate change rate, there seems to be no time to spare. Under him, Wyoming will witness TransWest Express and also two major PacificCorp transmission lines that will be hung up in the treeless region.
Wyoming has raised significant resistance to wind farms as it comes in proximity to homes and cabins. Sierra Madre and Chokecherry are spread widely but secluded, so relatively, this region has created less resistance as compared to other areas. A 500-megawatt, 120-turbine wind farm project which has been planned to be built on the Colorado state border has faced objections from the local property owners. They eventually lost, and the case was sent to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
The opposition party for the county approval was appropriately heard in a closed courtroom in Laramie in 2021. Reasons for opposition mainly consisted of natural reasons like killing birds by the turbine blades and constructing turbines blasting and damaging the foundation of their homes.
On the other hand, the county commission for Carbon County allowed the construction of a 280-megawatt, 79-turbine wind farm project on 6 June. This project is named Two Rivers and was only permitted after listening to all the concerns and arguments of both sides. But, Commissioners had ordered the builders to get federal approval before beginning the project.
Sue Jones, Vice Chairman of the Carbon County Commission, said that the area had previously agreed after some questioning and looking at the economic advantages, but the domestic opposition to a wind farm project was an unplanned and sudden recent development. Carbon County accepted an official seal in 2021 for the wind farm, which was earlier named for its huge coal reserves that were used to run steam engines.
Another objection from the county officials was the red light warnings for air-bound vehicles, resolved by turning on the lights only when an aircraft approached it. PacifiCorp serving customers in Wyoming, Utah, and the Pacific NorthWest modified its turbines in the area with an on-off pilot warning system as per the complaints from the locals.
Wyoming’s Energy-Generating Capacity
According to the US Geological Survey, Wyoming’s wind energy generation capacity has doubled in a span of 4 years by adding up to 600 turbines, majorly in the southeast regions. As per a 2022 report from the University of Wyoming, Chokecherry and Sierra Madre will double the figure alone as five more wind farms have been planned to be set up.
The US Energy Information Authority stated that almost 60% of the generated electricity from Wyoming is used in other states. Their electricity is transported to meet demands in the Pacific Northwest, California, and Arizona.
TransWest Express has planned to move the generated electricity from Chokecherry and Sierra Madre to 732 miles (1,178 kilometres) away from south-central Wyoming to the outskirts of Las Vegas. It will convert the direct current to alternating current in central Utah as it will be crossing from northwestern Colorado and Utah.
Wind power utilisation is beneficial to the climate in terms of carbon emissions, but the environmentalists’ concerns highlight the costs of damage to wildlife. Wind farms in Wyoming pose a threat to golden eagles and sage grouse, a ground-dwelling bird.