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PacifiCorp selects $2B in wind, transmission projects for Wyo. customers

PacifiCorp has selected four wind projects submitted in a request for proposal process for total capacity of 1,171 MW in Wyoming and is asking state regulators to approve those plus transmission lines totaling about $2 billion in combined projects.

The Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary, which does business as Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming, is asking for permits for the 500-MW TB Flats I and II Wind Project, largely in Carbon County, Wyo.; the 400-MW Cedar Springs Wind Project in Converse County, Wyo.; the 161-MW Uinta Wind Project in Uinta County, Wyo.; and the 110-MW McFadden Ridge II Wind Project in Carbon and Albany counties, Wyo.

The utility also wants to build additional 230-kV and 138-kV transmission lines, including the Aeolus-to-Bridger/Anticline transmission line in southeast Wyoming, to serve the projects. The state Public Service Commission had set a public hearing on the project requests for Feb. 22, but has since canceled that hearing and has not yet rescheduled it.

The company in April 2017 filed an integrated resource plan calling for building 1,100 MW of new wind projects, primarily in Wyoming, and repowering more than 900 MW of PacifiCorp's existing wind fleet by the end of 2020.

In testimony submitted with the application in January, Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO Cindy Crane said the company also asked for "innovative and nontraditional ratemaking to capture the costs and benefits of these facilities."

Crane said the company's 2017 request for proposals would result in 970 MW of company-owned facilities, and a 200-MW power purchase agreement involving half the output of the Cedar Springs project.

Crane said the combined projects are an increasingly attractive near- and long-term resource opportunity for customers and are a "least-cost, least-risk" path. She quantified the benefits of the company's latest economic analysis to be in the range of $311 million to $343 million through 2036. Production tax credits will flow through to customers, she said.

"The fact that the combined projects will provide customer benefits significantly in excess of their costs is extraordinary," Crane testified.

The request for proposals resulted in project capital costs coming in 17% below the company's capital cost estimate for its benchmark projects, at $1,320/kW, she said.

The company received 49 bid alternatives for 13 wind projects in Wyoming totaling 4,624 MW, and 15 bid alternatives for six non-Wyoming wind projects totaling 595 MW, she said. Its original request was for up to 1,270 MW interconnecting with or delivering to PacifiCorp's Wyoming system.

Crane said the the Aeolus-to-Bridger/Anticline transmission line project is needed in the capacity-constrained region to give the projects a chance to move forward. PacifiCorp had planned to construct the line in 2024, but now proposes to build it by 2020.

PacifiCorp Senior Vice President of Strategy and Development Chad Teply testified in January that TB Flats I and II, combined into a single project, and McFadden Ridge II are company benchmark projects, while the Cedar Springs project involves a third-party build and transfer and power purchase agreement. Uinta is a third-party build and transfer project, too. PacifiCorp did not disclose the developers of those projects. According to local news reports, Invenergy LLC is the developer of the TB Flats project.

All told, the wind projects alone are expected to cost about $1.3 billion, Teply said. Each of the wind projects acquired or secured the rights to sufficient wind turbine generator equipment and other facility-specific components before Dec. 31, 2016, to meet the start-of-construction definition for tax purposes, he said. However, transmission facilities critical for three of the projects are on a tight timeline that includes permit applications and right-of-way acquisition. The company is on track with its development schedule, Teply said. (Wyoming PSC Docket No. 20000-520-EA-17)