Duke Energy rides winds of change in Wyoming

CHEYENNE, WYOMING - North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp. is a major power provider from the Carolinas to the Midwest - and it's on its way to being a big player in wind energy in Wyoming and the west as well.

With dedication of its first wind farm September 30 — the Happy Jack Wind Farm near Cheyenne — Duke Energy has embarked on an ambitious effort to have more than 500 megawatts of wind-powered generation facilities in operation by the end of this year.

The Carolina utility plans to begin building another wind power project in Wyoming early next year. Its Campbell Hill project near Casper will have 66 wind turbines that will begin generating up to 99 megawatts of electricity by late 2009.

"Projects like this offer tangible proof in my mind that we can change the ultimate trajectory of power generation in our country and overcome and rise above obstacles that we find in our way," said Wouter T. van Kempen, president of Duke Energy Generation Services, in dedicating the Happy Jack Wind Farm.

"Duke Energy Generation Services is busy looking at all kinds of renewable technologies, but we're really spending most of our time on wind," he added.

With wind turbines whistling gently in the background, speakers from Duke Energy and Black Hills hailed the partnerships behind the Happy Jack project, while Gov. Dave Freudenthal hailed the project as sending a signal "to others in America that you can make wind resources work in Wyoming."

"The next signal we need to send is that we can get power lines built and that we can create a regulatory climate that will allow those lines to be built," he said.

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Duke is one of the nation's largest power companies, serving nearly four million customers in the Carolinas, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. But Duke also is committed to diversifying its energy resources with a major investment in wind energy.

The company's 2007/2008 Sustainability Report is titled "Building Bridges to a Low-Carbon Future." According to Duke Chairman, President and CEO Jim Rogers, Duke hopes to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030, a reduction of more than 50 million tons, and has committed $23 billion to improving its infrastructure, including increasing renewables, over the next five years.

Duke eventually plans to produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity from wind projects located primarily in the West, Southwest and Midwest. That's more than 2 1/2 times the power generated by Rocky Mountain Power's coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant near Rock Springs.

Duke's first wind farm, on a ridge along Happy Jack Road west of Cheyenne, is a "local" project with 14 turbines that will supply up to 30 megawatts of wind-generated electricity to Cheyenne and environs - or almost a quarter of the community's daily needs.

Duke has a long-term contract with Black Hills Corp. to supply clean, renewable energy to Black Hills' subsidiary, Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power.

Duke also has a 20-year agreement with PacifiCorp's subsidiary, Rocky Mountain Power, to supply power generated by its Campbell Hill project near Casper. That renewable power will go into PacifiCorp's integrated electric system serving customers in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California.

Lynn Good, Duke Energy's group executive and president for commercial businesses, said Duke's mission is to provide "affordable, reliable and clean energy," and the company is working hard to "decarbonize" its electricity generating plants.

"When I look at this project, Happy Jack, that will generate 30 megawatts and zero carbon electricity, we look at that as a very important step toward our goal of decarbonizing our fleet," said Van Kempen predicted the project would be "a big success" for the city of Cheyenne, Laramie County and Wyoming and said, "There's a new era of clean, renewable energy for the customers of Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power."

Good and Black Hills Corp. David Emery agreed that a mix of coal, natural gas, uranium and renewables will be needed to meet demands.

"There's no silver bullet, and we don't believe that any single technology will be the technology for the future," Good said. "We believe it's going to be a diverse mixture of fuels... There will be an important role for coal, an important role for natural gas, for nuclear energy and also for renewables like wind, solar and biomass. And at Duke, we also talk about the fifth fuel, which is energy efficiency.


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