Windmills stock

Courtesy photo | Metro Creative Connection

CASPER — The state’s largest utility, Rocky Mountain Power, continues to forge ahead with constructing its Aeolus Substation, about 10 miles outside Medicine Bow. Once completed, the substation will be able to collect the energy generated from nearby wind farms and load it onto a transmission line.

Last week, the utility delivered the massive transformers to the site to increase the substation’s voltage to 500,000 megawatts. Higher voltage levels help distribute power across transmission lines more efficiently. Rod Fisher, project manager of Aeolus Substation, compared the substation to an on-ramp of an interstate freeway system, where energy merges onto a transmission network and is transported to other parts of the electric grid.

The 140-mile portion of the Gateway West transmission line, also under construction, will link up to a substation by the Jim Bridger Power Plant at Point of Rocks. The transmission line will then be able to move energy produced in Wyoming across some of the utility’s multi-state service territory. The transformers have had a lengthy journey, coming by ship all the way from Japan. About a month ago, they landed in a Houston port where they were then taken by rail to Wyoming. Once in Laramie, they were offloaded onto trucks, making the final leg of their trip to the site near Medicine Bow.

Fisher considers the successful arrival and installation of the transformers a “huge milestone.” He said the utility’s massive infrastructure projects in Wyoming couldn’t be happening at a better time.

The utility’s enormous undertaking to retrofit Wyoming with state-of-the-art wind power and build necessary transmission lines is employing 1,100 workers this spring.

“That’s an awful lot of benefit to our local communities struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. The utility company is on track to have this project, along with several others, completed by the end of the year. The myriad developments are part of the utility’s Energy Vision 2020 — a $3.1 billion renewable energy initiative launched in 2017 to increase the utility’s renewable portfolio and save ratepayers costs down the road. By the end of 2020, the utility will have added 1,150 megawatts of new wind resources to the state. Rocky Mountain Power owns about a dozen wind projects in Wyoming and has several power purchase agreements with companies overseeing a number of additional wind farms in the state. Other wind projects, including TB Flats I and II, Ekola Flats and Cedar Springs, will also come into service this year.

Recently, Rocky Mountain Power fully acquired the state’s first wind facility, Foot Creek in Carbon County, as part of its plan to increase the site’s power capacity by 60 percent. The company’s repowering projects at Dunlap and Foot Creek I facilities are still set to be wrapped up by December, too.

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