Wind Energy

Rebecca Jacobson/Inside Energy

Colorado’s three-member Public Utilities Commission gave its approval on Monday to a proposed $2.5 billion investment in solar, wind and natural gas power in the state.

Courtesy of NCAR/UCAR

A regional energy project entering final planning stages this fall is set to become one of northern Colorado’s largest sources of wind power. 

Rae Ellen Bichell / Mountain West News Bureau

Over the last decade or so, states in the Mountain West region have used less and less coal to make electricity. Wind is one of the energy sources replacing it.

Colorado’s biggest wind farm is set to be completed by this fall — and it might even help keep a piece of state history intact.

Even as wind energy production has grown in recent years to be a large part of the country’s energy portfolio, a chill around federal funding for renewable energy has researchers increasingly turning to industry partners to bring the next generation of innovation to the marketplace.

Wyoming Wants Wind Energy Factory Jobs. Colorado Has Them

Jul 26, 2016
Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Wyoming has lost hundreds of coal mining jobs in 2016. In contrast to coal, the renewables industry is growing nationwide. Generation capacity is projected to jump more than 50 percent by 2040, even in the absence of new environmental regulations. With that growth, there's a need for more components like blades and towers to build wind farms.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead's long-term energy strategy for the state includes plans to attract this kind of manufacturing. You only have to look to the state's neighbor to the south, Colorado, to find those kind of production jobs.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

The costs of wind and solar power have fallen dramatically in recent years. Still, renewables only account for a fraction of the energy produced in the United States.

That's one of the challenges facing the new director of the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado. Dr. Martin Keller, who took over following the retirement of Dan Arvizu in late 2015, describes NREL's mission -- acting as the nation's premier renewable energy research laboratory -- as one of filling in the gaps in science and technology.

Colorado Wind Energy Gets A Burst Of Good News

Apr 12, 2016
Courtesy of NCAR/UCAR

Unlike fossil fuels, wind energy is booming.

Xcel Energy has announced a proposal with Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems to build a 300 turbine project in eastern Colorado. It would be the state's largest wind farm. The utility isn't releasing further information until the project is formally filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Even without firm details on the project, the wind industry is clearly growing.

As Coal Wanes, Can Other Energy Sources Meet Its Stalwart Reliability?

Jun 16, 2015
Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The coal stockpile at the Laramie River Power Station in Wheatland, Wyoming, is so big that you can't really see beyond it. It is similar to standing on the beach and looking out over the ocean, except this is one is made of coal – 35 acres of it. That's enough to produce electricity for about one month.

As a source of power, coal is predictable, easy to store, and well understood. Renewables and natural gas share few of these characteristics and some see that as a huge problem.

As the Environmental Protection Agency puts the finishing touches its proposal to cut carbon dioxide emissions – known as the Clean Power Plan – warnings that the transition away from coal will impact grid reliability are getting louder.

Tom Koerner/USFWS / Flickr - Creative Commons

The sage grouse relies on large tracts of unbroken sagebrush habitat, miles of scrubby bushes flowing like an ocean, unbroken by towns and roads. Housing developments, roads, invasive species, and wildfires are fragmenting sagebrush habitat that used to cover 460,000 square miles of North America.

Energy development is a key threat to the sage grouse too. Beyond oil and gas drilling there's another, almost unlikely, culprit involved. Some western conservationists are speaking out urgently against a power source often thought of as one of the greenest — wind farms.

Sam Beebe / Creative Commons

As use of wind energy grows in Colorado, industry and energy grid officials are looking for more sophisticated forecasts to tell them when exactly to use the ephemeral energy source. Current weather models are helpful, but researchers know that mountains and valleys can throw off predictions — requiring more complex weather forecasting.

Enter a team from the University of Colorado, which were recently granted $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to improve weather prediction for the wind energy industry.