China’s leading wind turbine maker, Goldwind, is to supply 1.87 GW of turbines for the 1,870 MW Master Plan for Carbon County Wyoming, being developed by relative newcomer Viridis Eolia.
Wyoming big wind
Carbon County Wyoming is also the site of the proposed 3 GW Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project that Power Company of Wyoming has been painstakingly permitting on public lands for the last seven years.
Perhaps learning from the larger company’s permitting challenges, the 6-year-old firm Viridis Eolia plans to site its 1.87 GW wind farm on partly public and partly state-owned lands, and is permitting its project in incremental stages, beginning with a small 30 MW project, Little Medicine Bow wind farm, followed by two 80 MW projects.
These first three wind farms will all be on state-owned land, and between them, are expected to take respectively till 2017, 2018, and 2019 to become operational.
While constructing the first three wind farms, Viridis Eolia will begin the process of permitting three larger tranches of the total project on public lands, at 222.5 MW, 197.5 MW and 230 MW, with the last to be completed by 2022.
China’s biggest turbine maker to supply turbines
Viridis selected China’s Goldwind to supply turbines for the entire 1,870 MW project, placing a 1.87 GW order for its PMDD — permanent magnet direct drive — 3 MW turbines. Goldwind would also handle operations and maintenance, following the business plan of turbine manufacturers like Siemens and Vestas.
Goldwind is an unusual choice. Goldwind is China’s leading wind turbine maker — but 98% of its installs are within China.
China is half the global wind market
According to Navigant, there are now functionally just two equal-sized global wind markets; China — and the rest of the world. China almost exclusively uses domestic-made turbines, yet it supplies only 2% of the turbines for the ‘rest-of-the-world’ global market.
The result has been that Goldwind is now the global leading turbine maker, with 12.8% of the global market — improbably surpassing such giants as Vestas at 12% and GE with 9.2% and Siemens with 7.7% — but with a much less diverse global portfolio than these older manufacturers and serving the Chinese market almost exclusively.
Last year, studies showed that US wind generation at 190 million MWh was higher than China’s 185.1 million MWh, yet the US had only about half of China’s installed capacity, which raises questions about the efficiency of Chinese turbines. The Goldwind purchase agreement would be subject to US regulatory approvals.
Bold startup in an unfriendly state
Viridis Eolia is a startup that began in 2010, and has no history of any other wind development projects, making this an unusual and ambitious project. Most wind developers build smaller projects before announcing bigger ones, and certainly before signing agreements to purchase components like the huge order of nearly 2 GW of turbines from Goldwind.
Viridian Eolia’s Master Plan is not the only gigantic wind farm attempting permitting in Wyoming, but would join the 3 GW (3,000 MW) Choke Cherry Sierra Madre project by Power Company of Wyoming to reach almost 5 GW of wind power in Wyoming.
Wyoming slow to adopt wind energy
Wyoming has some of the best wind potential in the US, but resistance to the Clean Power Plan by its Republican leadership — and a small population — would suggest it would have almost no need for any new wind generation, let alone these two massive projects.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R) had instructed Wyoming’s attorney general to join with the other Republican-held states to oppose the Clean Power Plan. Any switch from coal energy is opposed by both Wyoming Senators. Senator Barasso (R) describing it as a massive power grab.
“This proposal isn’t some isolated bureaucratic rule,” Wyoming Republican Senator Mike Enzi (R) told E&E News.
“If you can make it too expensive to open a new power plant and prematurely shut down existing plants, you effectively put a stop to coal use in this country. As coal accounts for nearly 40% of the nation’s electricity, the consequences for all Americans are real. This president needs to understand real families, real businesses, real communities will be hurt.”
According to EIA figures, as of 2014, 88% of Wyoming electricity came from coal, while only 11% came from renewables (mostly wind.)
Despite this unusually high reliance on coal for electricity, the Clean Power Plan for Wyoming is actually is among the least stringent nationwide. For example, Wyoming’s 2030 goal is to get down to 1,299 pounds (of CO2) per MWh. Just converting most of its coal plants to natural gas would get it close.
Saved by a California connection?
Because of Wyoming’s unfriendly renewables environment, and flimsy federal mandate, there would seem to be almost no incentive to build these two large projects in Wyoming — at least for domestic consumption.
However there is a way out. A huge 730-mile transmission line, designed to enable transmission of wind power to California, promises to serve as a way to capitalize on Wyoming’s outstanding wind energy potential.
Transwest Express plans a 3,000 MW power line that would begin where Power Company of Wyoming has proposed its massive Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm, the biggest in the US. Viridian Eolia’s 840 MW Master Plan would be nearby in Carbon County.
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