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Californians would benefit and save money - up to $1 billion in annual generation costs - if a new direct-current transmission line connected the California grid to Wyoming's high-capacity wind energy resources, according to an economic analysis produced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Commissioned by the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA) in 2013, the final report shows the calculated benefits of such a transmission project would outweigh the costs by more than two times. The WIA says that is well above the threshold utilities typically require before making transmission investments.

The Wyoming legislature created the WIA in 2004 to diversify and expand the state economy through improvements in the state’s electric transmission infrastructure and to facilitate the consumption of Wyoming energy.

“Wyoming has some of the best onshore wind in the United States,” says Loyd Drain, executive director of the WIA. “This study quantifies the benefit of connecting the best wind in the West to the state with the largest demand for renewables in the West - thus, the California-Wyoming connection.”

The study looked at various scenarios and reviewed how California plans to supply the 32,000 GWh of new renewable energy in order to meet the state’s 33% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard (RPS). According to the WIA, the report suggests Wyoming wind power would help the state accomplish its goals, and at a low long-term cost.

Drain notes that one Wyoming direct-current transmission line, the TransWest Express Transmission Project, is well advanced in the federal permitting process and on track to be in service ahead of California’s 2020 RPS deadline. The TransWest project is a 600 kV, 3 GW, high-voltage direct-current transmission line that would be 725 miles long. 


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