A long-term view of electrical generation -- not politics or fads -- drives Rocky Mountain Power's decision to invest $3.5 billion in transmission capability, wind power and other infrastructure in Wyoming by 2020, company officials said Friday.

"Not everybody is a lover of wind generation, nor is everybody a lover of coal," Wyoming Rocky Mountain Power Vice President Rita Meyer said.

Wind does not compete with coal nor other energy sources, Meyer said."We have a very diverse resource mix."

And Rocky Mountain Power isn't changing its resource mix because of former President Barack Obama's administration, she said.

"Our investments are made for 50, 60 years down the road because we're making huge investments on assets that are going to last a long period of time," Meyer said. "We can't afford to be at the whim of politics. We can't afford to worry about who's in Washington. We make decisions based on sound business strategy, like all of you do in business."

Rita Meyer. Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Rita Meyer.
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

The Salt Lake City-based Rocky Mountain Power is a part of the Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. Rocky Mountain Power has nearly 1.1 million customers in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho, according to its promotional literature.

Rocky Mountain Power's energy-generating capacity is about 55 percent coal, 25 percent natural gas, 10 percent hydroelectric, and 10 percent wind and other sources, according to its promotional literature.

Friday, Meyer and other company officials at the company's wind operations center based in Casper met with public officials, business people, representatives of state agencies and the media to outline its plans and the explain some of the technology behind wind power.

Company spokeswoman Sharon Fain said Rocky Mountain Power's Energy Vision 2020 project -- the project being operational by the fall of 2020 -- intends to expand the Gateway West transmission line by 140 miles from the Aeolus Substation near Medicine Bow to the Jim Bridger power plant north of Rock Springs. (Aeolus is the Greek god of wind.)

Rocky Mountain Power also will add 1,100 megawatts of new wind power and repowering the existing wind farms by installing longer blades and newer technology in Wyoming to boost the turbines' generation power by 20 percent, she said.

The projects will add between 1,200 and 1,600 construction jobs, pump about $115 million in tax revenue through construction, and add about $14 million in tax revenue by 2024.

That year also will be about when Rocky Mountain Power will begin to invest in solar electric generation, said Laine Anderson, director of the company's wind operations.

The 2020 deadline is important because that's when production tax credits for wind power will end and the company must buy the equipment it needs by then, Meyer said.

"We have an obligation as a regulated utility to always be ready to meet the demand for power," she said.

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