CASPER, Wyo. — Governor Mark Gordon reiterated his calls for an all-the-above energy strategy that makes room for conventional energy resources as well as renewables and nuclear during a press conference held Monday in the wake of the Wyoming Legislature’s 2022 Budget Session.
“Wyoming is an all-the-above energy state,” Gordon said.
On the renewable energy front, the governor pointed to the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, a 3,000 MW wind farm being constructed by Power Company of Wyoming in Carbon County.
“We will be home to the second largest wind farm in the world,” Gordon said, adding that he thinks Wyoming has an obvious ability to facilitate renewable energy projects.
The EIA said in a March 7 report that battery storage capacity and renewable capacity both “significantly increased” in the U.S. in 2021 “partly because of tax credits and partly because of falling technology costs, especially for batteries.” Between 2020 and 2021, 24 GW of solar capacity was added compared with 12 GW of natural gas capacity, “a trend that will likely continue over the next two years as the demand for solar power continues to grow,” the EIA said.
The EIA said that power plant operators expect to add 85 GW of total new generating capacity from 2022 to 2023 with solar and battery storage projects accounting for about 60% of that new capacity. 41 GW of utility scale solar is expected to be added over the next two years, plus 10 GW of battery storage capacity. The EIA says that 16 GW of natural gas capacity and 15 GW of wind capacity can be expected.
Wyoming’s new budget gives the governor some flexibility to provide matches to secure grants from the U.S. Department of Energy to support things like carbon capture, Gordon said Monday. The governor has helped broker a deal with PacifiCorp that could lead to carbon capture being added at both the Jim Bridger and Dave Johnston power plants, and Gordon said Monday that he thinks carbon capture is important not only to reduce emissions but also to help keep jobs in Wyoming at existing power plants.
Gordon also noted on Monday that Wyoming is working with several other western states toward building out a hydrogen hub. The coalition of states is competing to receive some of the $8 billion in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocated toward four or more regional hydrogen hubs.
While Wyoming is not directly investing in TerraPower’s Natrium nuclear reactor project in Kemmerer, Gordon said Monday that the state does have a role to play in terms of making sure regulations are appropriate. The governor said that he thinks House Bill 131, a bill passed by the legislature during the budget session that relates to the storage of nuclear waste, was about ensuring that Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations take precedent over state-level regulations.
Gordon said that he is anxious to see the Natrium project move forward and that he is hopeful that the development of advanced nuclear reactors can coincide with a revitalization of Wyoming’s uranium industry. Russia is a major supplier of uranium and the U.S. ban on Russian energy does not include a ban on Russian uranium imports, according to Reuters.
Russian company Tenex is the only company that produces a commercial supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), the type of uranium needed for the Natrium reactor to be built in Wyoming, according to the American Nuclear Society. Limited HALEU fuel is available in the United States through the Department of Energy, and the DOE is working on both short- and long-term solutions to increase the HALEU supply, including a partnership with Centrus Energy to bring an enrichment facility online in Ohio.
Gordon said Monday that he thinks it is important that the United States work toward increasing domestic supply and ability to process uranium and other critical minerals along with conventional energy sources such as oil, pointing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as evidence of why self-reliance on energy is important. He added that he thinks the U.S. is overly reliant on China for rare earth minerals.
Wyoming’s new budget includes an appropriation of up to $150,000 toward a feasibility study to explore whether Wyoming can obtain agreement status with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission “for licensing the possession of nuclear materials or byproduct nuclear materials, including thorium, from the mining and processing of rare earth elements.”
Gordon said that while he thinks the administration of President Joe Biden has been reluctant in terms of allowing leasing of federal land for oil and gas development, he thinks the country should be taking steps to increase domestic production of oil and gas while also investing in carbon capture and sequestration.
Gordon noted that oil prices have been volatile amid Russia’s war on Ukraine and that he doesn’t think it makes sense for the country to rely on imports from adversaries when the United States has its own natural resources that it could rely on.