Study pinpoints West's windy, sunny
Feb 7, 2009 - The Associated Press
The Western Governors' Association
is working to identify the windiest and sunniest areas
of the West - in other words, those areas best suited
for major renewable energy projects.
Working with the Department of Energy,
the Governors' Association this week released a draft
study naming areas that contain the most potential
for development of renewable energy sources, also
including geothermal and hydropower.
The study says renewable energy projects
could generate more than 235,000 megawatts of energy
in the 12 western states, Mexico's Baja California
and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and
Association officials say the "Western
Renewable Energy Zone" project is intended to bring
more renewable energy online by facilitating the construction
of transmission lines between resource areas and population
centers. The project is soliciting public comment
on its early findings.
"The number one issue that renewable
energy folks identified for us as being an impediment
to greater development of renewable energy was transmission,"
said Rich Halvey, the Governors' Association energy
program director. "We're looking at big resource areas
and large-sized transmission lines that are going
to move the power over significant distances."
The ongoing study finds Wyoming to have
the most wind power potential - nearly 25,000 megawatts
- and Arizona to have the most solar power potential
- more than 22,000 megawatts. For reference, an average
coal-fired power plant produces about 500 megawatts,
The study takes into account obstacles
to energy development, such as land-use restrictions
and wildlife conflicts. It assumes restrictions on
regulated state or federal lands, such as U.S. Forest
Service roadless areas, and other protected wildlife
habitat, such as the Jackson pronghorn antelope migration
corridor in western Wyoming.
Halvey said the study's resource-potential
estimates are intentionally conservative.
"Most of those areas are far larger
than that in terms of potential," he said. "If it
was a wind resource, we assumed that only 25 percent
of the resource in that area would get developed,
and if it was solar, we assumed it was only 3 percent
of the resource in that area would get developed."
Groups working on the study will continue
to refine the renewable energy zones and will present
them at the Western Governors' Association annual
meeting this summer in Utah.
Also, an association committee dedicated
to generation and transmission modeling is developing
tools to help utilities estimate the costs of building
new power lines to renewable energy zones.
"That model is going to actually enable
us to calculate the delivered cost of electricity
from anywhere to anywhere," Halvey said. "So if somebody
in southern California says, 'I wonder how much it
would be to bring wind in from Wyoming?' they'd have
a tool to be able to calculate that."
On the Net, Western Governors' Association,