By - Jim Vess

PacifiCorp gets green light from state regulators for $3 billion Wyoming wind plan

Energize Weekly, August 1, 2018

PacifiCorp, which serves 1.9 million people in six western states, has received state approvals to move ahead with its $3 billion plan add and wind generation and transmission lines to its system.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved the project on July 20 after the Utah Public Service Commission gave its approval in June and Wyoming issued its conditional okay in April. “Oregon and Washington have signaled support,” the company said.

The plan—PacifiCorp calls it Energy Vision 2020—would add three new Wyoming wind projects, a total of 1.15 gigawatts, and 140 miles of new high-voltage transmission lines. Another 900 megawatts (MW) of existing wind facilities in Washington state and Wyoming will also be repowered.

The projects are scheduled to be completed by 2020 so that they can realize the full benefits of the federal wind production tax credit (PTC), which is being phased out by the end of 2019.

“These investments will significantly expand the company’s Wyoming wind fleet and benefit both state and local economies,” Cindy Crane, CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, PacifiCorp’s division serving Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, said in a statement.

In the Idaho case, industrial and agricultural interests question whether the combined wind and transmission project was needed and that the need could be met with existing resources.

The commission ruled, however, that the plan is “fair, just and reasonable because the costs passed on to the utility’s customers will likely be demonstrably less” than available capacity.

The new wind projects will increase PacifiCorp’s owned and contracted wind capacity by more than 60 percent, adding enough new wind energy to power more than 400,000 average homes by 2020.

The repowering projects will upgrade the company’s existing wind fleet with longer blades and newer technology aimed at boosting output by more than 25 percent and extending the life of the wind turbines.

The $3 billion figure is about a $500 million reduction from the project’s original price tag, with the reduction coming due to changes in project scope and lower costs as a result of the bidding process, the company said.

In Oregon, Washington and California the full review and judgment on whether it is a prudent investment will come when the company seeks permission to recover project costs.

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