Wyoming will reap many of the benefits of a $3.5 billion investment in wind power generation by Rocky Mountain Power in the next three years, according to a news release from the company on Thursday.

The Salt Lake City-based company will file regulatory paperwork in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho on Friday for a plan to significantly expand the amount of power from wind by 2020.

The benefits for customers will be long term, company spokesman Dave Eskelsen said.

"What it will do to rates right now, it's a little hard to say precisely," Eskelsen said. Rates are set based on a number of variables that change from year to year, he said.

"Our objective, always, is to preserve our position as one of the low-cost electric providers in the nation," he said.

The Energy Vision 2020 initiative for Wyoming, Utah and Idaho has three phases,

"We want to upgrade the existing wind fleet that we own and operate in Wyoming, and also some other states, with new technology with longer blades that will help us capture more wind energy, increase efficiency, and will extend the lives of those facilities," Eskelsen said.

"In connection with that, we'd like to build 140 miles of the Gateway transmission segment that we've been working on for a number of years, and that will help us integrate our wind power into the transmission system," he said.

The transmission project would extend from a substation in the Shirley Basin to a substation near the Jim Bridger power plant east of Rock Springs, Eskelsen said. The company has been working with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and will be in contact with private land owners to gain the rights to build the transmission infrastructure.

"The third part of our proposal is to issue a request-for-proposal for about 1,100 megawatts of new wind power," Eskelsen said. "This would be built by others and they would give the company proposals which we would then evaluate."

The projects also are expected to bring these benefits:

  • Create between 1,100 and 1,600 construction jobs in Wyoming.
  • Add approximately $120 million in tax revenue from construction.
  • Bring significant post-construction annual tax revenues starting at approximately $11 million in 2021 and growing to $14 million annually by 2024.

Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, owns wind turbines between Rawlins and Laramie, on the site of its former coal mine north of Glenrock, and three other projects, he said. The company also purchases power from other wind projects.

"Most of the wind resources we own are in Wyoming," Eskelsen said.

Besides wind, the company relies on natural gas and coal to produce electricity, and that mix won't change, he said.

The timing for filing the regulatory paperwork is important, he said. "There are federal production tax credits available until 2020, and we'll be able to use those production tax credits to reduce the costs of these facilities and that will result in a net cost savings for our customers."

Visit energyvision2020.com for more information about the initiative.