The “Cowboy State” Riding High With Renewables!

State Economy

The population of the “Cowboy State” Wyoming is approximately 0.58 million people[1]. Wyoming is the least populated state in the United States.

In 2022, Wyoming’s economy was ranked 49th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the mining, energy, manufacturing. agriculture, and tourism industries[3].

Environmental Policies

Wyoming is one of only 13 states that has neither a renewable portfolio standard nor a renewable energy goal[4].

Power Generation Capabilities

In November 2022, utilities used coal (70.7 %), renewable energy (25.2 %), and natural gas (4.1 %) to generate electricity[5] in Wyoming. Wind, hydropower, and solar are the dominant types of renewable energy in Wyoming.

In November 2022, the average cost of residential electricity in Wyoming was 11.67 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 15.64 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Wyoming include:

  • 3,000 MW Wind Project – Electric utility, Power Company of Wyoming is continuing work on the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind energy project, which is located approximately 140 miles northwest of the state capital, Cheyenne. The entire project is forecast to be commissioned in 2026.
  • 250 MW Wind Project – In December 2020, American utility, PacifiCorp commissioned the Ekola Flats Wind energy project, which is located approximately 75 miles northwest of Cheyenne.
  • 250 MW Solar Project – Wyoming energy service company, Legend Services is continuing work to build a utility scale solar project at a site approximately 250 miles northwest of Cheyenne. The project is forecast to be commissioned by 2024.
  • 225 MW Wind Project – In June 2020, NextEra Energy commissioned the Roundhouse Renewable Energy project, which is located approximately 10 miles west of Cheyenne.

Conclusions

Coal mining began in Wyoming in 1867[6], prior to statehood. Coal was initially used to fuel steam engines to power locomotives and forges.

In 2021, Wyoming had 16 operating coal mines[7], which produced approximately 238.8 million tons of primarily sub-bituminous coal. Wyoming has been the leading coal producing state in the United States since 1986.

In 2010, 95.2 % of Wyoming’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[8]. In November 2022, 70.7 % of the state’s electricity was generated from coal. Why the decrease?

  1. EconomicsThe cost to generate power from coal is more than double the cost to generate power from renewables, like wind.
  2. Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[9].
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40% to 45% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

Escalating mining and transportation costs make the cost of electricity from coal-fueled power plants significantly more expensive than renewable energy or even natural gas. Utilities across the United States are closing coal-fueled power plants due to compelling economic and environmental reasons.

Will America’s top coal producing states, Wyoming, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Kentucky experience massive unemployment due to the move to renewable energy? The reality is the move from coal-fueled power plants to power plants fueled by renewable energy, like wind and solar will result in massive job creation.

Employment in the coal industry in America has declined from over 862,536 jobs in 1920[10] to 38,900 people[11] in 2022, a 95.5 % decrease! Automation has been the driving force for the job losses in the coal industry.

In 2022, over 120,000 people were employed in the wind industry[12] and over 249,000 people were employed solar industry in America. Job growth in both the wind and solar industries is forecast to dramatically increase over the next ten years.

In 2021, America’s utilities[13] used wind and solar to generate 9.2% and 2.8% of the nation’s electricity, respectively. The U.S. Department of Energy now forecasts that by 2030 wind and solar will generate over 20% and over 17% of the nation’s electricity, respectively. Job gains from the wind and solar industries will more than offset job losses in the coal industry.

Wyoming has significant renewable energy resources, including wind, hydropower, and solar. Economics have caused the state’s utilities to turn from coal to renewable energy.

The “Cowboy State” is now riding high with renewables, which will provide the state with economic and environmental prosperity!

 

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy related topics.

[1] Wyoming Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] What Are The Major Industries In Wyoming? – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, August 13, 2022

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Wyoming State Profile and Energy Estimates

[6] Wyoming State Historical Society, The Coal Business in Wyoming by Chamois L. Andersen, November 8, 2014

[7] U.S. EIA – Wyoming State Profile and Energy Estimates, Energy Analysis – Coal, February 18, 2021

[8] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Minnesota Electric Power Consumption Estimates 1960 – 2018

[9] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

[10] http://gregor.us/policy/coal-jobs-and-the-power-of-a-false-premise/

[11] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

[12] Wind Powers America Annual Report 2022

[13] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Table 7.2a Electricity Net Generation (All Sectors)

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