Four companies have jointly proposed a first-of-its-kind, $8-billion green-energy initiative that would bring huge amounts of clean electricity to the Los Angeles area by 2023.
The project requires the construction of one of America’s largest wind farms in Wyoming, one of the world’s biggest energy-storage facilities in Utah, and a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting the two sites.
“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, one of the four companies involved in the initiative.
The proposed project would generate more than double the amount of electricity produced by the giant 1930s-era hydroelectric dam in Nevada, 9.2 million megawatt-hours (MWh) per year versus 3.9 million MWh.
A key component of the project is a massive, compressed-air, underground energy-storage facility that would yield 1,200 MW, equivalent to the output of a large nuclear power plant; it would store enough to serve an estimated 1.2 million L.A.-area homes.
The underground facility would help solve one of renewable energy’s biggest challenges: intermittency. 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.
The energy-storage facility also would reduce the need for Los Angeles-area utilities to build expensive backup power plants and power lines to serve customers on days when there’s no wind, at night, and during other periods when traditional wind and solar farms are unable to produce electricity.
Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy would build, own and operate the $4-billion wind farm near Chugwater, Wyo., 40 miles north of Cheyenne, which would generate 2,100 MW.
Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, Magnum Energy and Dresser-Rand would install the $1.5-billion compressed-air energy-storage system at a site near Delta, Utah. Four vertical caverns, carved out of an underground salt formation at the site, would be key components of the storage system. Each cavern would be about a quarter-mile high, 290 feet in diameter and 41 million cubic feet in volume. The four caverns would store the energy equivalent of 60,000 MWh. During periods of low customer demand, the storage facility would use excess electricity from the Pathfinder wind farm to compress and inject high-pressure air into the caverns for storage. During periods of high customer demand, the facility would use this air, combined with a small amount of natural gas, to power eight generators to produce electricity.
Duke-American Transmission proposes to build the $2.6-billion, 525-mile, high-voltage electric transmission line that would transport the Wyoming wind farm’s electricity to the Utah energy-storage facility. The transmission line would traverse Wyoming, Colorado and Utah with a target in-service date of 2023. A separate, existing 490-mile transmission line, traversing Utah, Nevada and California, would transport electricity from the Utah energy-storage facility to Los Angeles.