Wind Wednesday – Buffett’s Billion Dollar Bet on Wind Energy

courtesy pacificorp

Rocky Mountain Air

After about 6 months since the wind farm RFP proposal process started, Rocky Mountain Power (a division of PacifiCorp… a division of Berkshire Hathaway) announced this week that it has selected four sites in Wyoming, USA, for its quartet of wind farms. For perspective, the wind farms will be located almost due south of very breezy Medicine Hat. (With a quick drive thru Montana!)

The project works to roughly $1.5 billion USD and will add up to roughly 1,300 megawatts to the grid. This is a big chunk of the even bigger: “Energy Vision 2020” which includes refurbishments to existing turbine farms across several states, and an upgraded/new transmission line.

Warren Buffett’s executive team at PacifiCorp & Rocky Mountain Power had this to say on the venture: “The new wind projects are part of the company’s Energy Vision 2020 initiative, which will significantly expand the company’s Wyoming wind fleet and benefit the state and local economies,” said Cindy A. Crane, Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO. (Great!)

Like ’em or not, Berkshire Hathaway and the “Oracle of Omaha” see wind power as part of their future energy mix. Is there an incentive in place that they are taking advantage of? Certainly! (An Obama-era tax incentive expires in 2020, and it’s hard to say if the current US government will extend that incentive.. “We’ve ended the war on beautiful, clean coal,” – Said the US President last year.. (okay, so it may expire in 2020)

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

It is fair to say that politicians love to talk about jobs, (For some reason I think it’s mandatory they say it three-times-fast) But the reality is that these four projects are estimated to bring in over 1,000 construction jobs (some figures are up to 1,600) and 200 full-time local positions. (Not bad!)

For a local perspective… When it was announced Amazon announced late last year that it was going to open a distribution center north Calgary, politicians and citizens alike were cheering in the streets! (The total number of construction jobs… roughly 150…. )

*Edit.. According to a CBC article, it was noted that full-time employees could be up to 750) Obviously more people need to work in a warehouse than on a wind farm once their built, but you get my point!)

Not business-as-usual

In the coming months I’m set to attend a series of business summits across Canada… Wind Energy is one of the topics I expect to hear a lot of possibilities.

For the country as a whole, new technology, new research on land, all equal new potential!

Quebec is identifying promising regions for future projects.

Alberta is currently in the process of Phase 2 of the 3 Phase wind farm bid process.

Saskatchewan is working towards competitive bidding.

British Columbia ? Cancelled. Ontario? Moratorium on off-shore wind farms. (Hmm…)

Cost is still King, but times have changed

2018 is not going to be business as usual for the energy industry, and we’ve already seen some pretty staggering numbers! Prices are coming down, and wind is becoming more competitive in a lot of markets.

That’s your Wind Wednesday

I’ll be in Saskatchewan and looking forward to some local posts including a stop at the Sask Legislature!


Kelly Hall

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