Known for its reliably conservative politics and heavy support for fossil fuel, Wyoming is embracing a new way of thinking when it comes to energy. Late last month, nearly 150 invited guests from federal, state and local entities participated in the TransWest Express Transmission Project groundbreaking ceremony on a ranch southeast of Rawlins.
The TransWest project will be a 732-mile powerline that will transfer Wyoming’s wind-generated electricity to the southwest. This is just one way the Biden Administration hopes to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2035.
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland spoke to the crowd about the benefits derived from wind energy.
“We know that clean energy transmission lines and renewable energy projects on public lands will help communities across the country to be part of the climate solution while creating good paying jobs,” said Haaland.
The project will start on the 320,000-acre private Overland Trail Ranch which is also the site of a wind farm currently under construction. The line will transmit 3,000 megawatts of power generated from the wind and bring it all the way to southern Nevada. That is enough energy to power nearly a million residential homes located from Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Wyoming’s Governor Mark Gordon was also in attendance. Gordon is usually at odds with the Biden Administration’s view regarding fossil fuels but this unique project has both parties sharing common ground.
“Because there’s an urgency as we see climate change, we know that we don’t have time to waste,” said Gordon. “We have to move with diligence forward to make sure that we address the issue of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with alacrity, with diligence and with dedication.”
This view is quite different from the typical mantra on oil, natural gas and coal. It has garnered the support of many Wyoming officials including Rawlins Mayor, Terry Weickum, who has seen the town lose thousands of jobs as a result of a downturn in the energy sector coupled with coal mine closures.
“It is a lucky break for us to get this incredible thing in our mix,” said Weickum.
Weickum said some people do not like it because renewable projects feel like a threat to the energy industries that historically have been in the area.
“They feel like it’s replacing – well the coal is gone,” said Weickum. “And they’ve been closed. We need it all. We need all the energy sources we can (get). It’s not a competition.”
The TransWest project will spur economic development by bringing 1,000 temporary workers to the area over the next decade.
The TransWest Express Transmission project has taken nearly two decades to achieve this most recent milestone. The permitting process and changes in administration took a great amount of time. Officials pointed out that future projects will need to be streamlined.
For more information regarding this project, click here.