Giant Wind Farm Could be 21st Century’s Hoover Dam

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
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A consortium of leading energy companies have unveiled an ambitious proposal for a $8 billion wind power project in the state of Wyoming, with the goal of supply power-hungry California with clean and renewable electricity.

Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy would build and operate a $4 billion 2,100-megawatt wind farm near Chugwater in south-eastern Wyoming in order to take advantage of the natural climate advantages of the state’s flat landscape, which is host to the strongest sustained winds in the country.

Dresser-Rand Group would be entrusted with the development of a $1.5 billion “cavern battery” that stores surplus energy via the compression and injection of high-pressure into subterranean salt caverns.

The facility would consist of a total of four vertical caverns carved from an underground salt formation, with each cavern measuring 1,160,990 cubic metres in volume and capable of harbouring the energy equivalent of 60,000 megawatt hours of electricity in total.

The high-pressure air in the caverns could then be combined with a modest amount of natural gas to power eight generators for the production of electricity.

Duke-American Transmission, a joint venture of Duke Energy Corp., would then permit the delivery of the clean energy generated by Pathfinder’s wind farm and storage facility to southern California via the construction of a $2.6 billion transmission line. The new line would extend from the wind farm and storage unit through Colorado to Utah, where it would in turn be delivered to Los Angeles via an existing 788-kilometre line.

According to Duke Energy, the cavern battery should enable the wind farm to perform with the reliability of power plants that make use of fossil fuels or nuclear materials.

“Linking the wind farm to the energy storage facility would enable the wind farm to function largely like a traditional coal, nuclear or natural gas power plant – capable of reliably delivering large amounts of electricity whenever needed, based on customer demand,” said the company.

The consortium will submit their proposal for the project to the Southern California Public Power Authority by early 2015, with construction scheduled for completion by 2023.

The wind farm will be one of the most ambitious energy projects since the turn of the century, with its developers calling it an undertaking of historic significance.

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“This project would be the 21st Century’s Hoover Dam – a landmark of the clean energy revolution,” said Jeff Meyer, managing partner of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy in an official statement.

If anything, the proposed wind farm would dwarf the Hoover Dam in energy output, producing around 9.2 gigawatt hours per year, more than double the 4.2 gigawatt hours that the Hoover produced in an average year from 1999 to 2008.

The announcement of the project arrives just as California pushes for the accelerated development of renewable energy to sate its  growing demand for electricity. The state recently released a roadmap which proposes the designation of a total of 2 million acres of the California’s southern deserts for future solar, wind and geothermal projects.

According to figures from the California Energy Commission, energy demand in Los Angeles alone is expected to rise by as much as 18 per cent over the upcoming decade.

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