Wyoming’s power infrastructure is better able to withstand weather-related disasters that have cut power to large swaths of people in other states in the past year, according to experts.
This summer, a devastating heat wave struck the Pacific Northwest, causing power outages that left almost 40,000 people without power from Washington to Nevada. Last winter, the entire state of Texas was caught in a rare cold snap that hammered the state’s power grid and left millions shivering, without electricity and, in some cases, water.
But in Wyoming, the electrical and energy system is more resilient, according to experts.
“The extreme weather events the country experienced last February were exceptional in nature – even though our system came under stress in a similar way to other states, it did not break as we saw in Texas,” said Dr. Glen Murell, executive director of the Wyoming Energy Authority.
Murell said Wyoming is much better prepared to survive extreme weather without widespread power outages.
“To start, our generation fleet is designed and built to stay operational during extreme cold events,” he said. “Secondly, we are part of the Western Interconnect which allows us to borrow electricity from other regions that are not being impacted as severely. Thirdly, the proactive planning and operational rigor of our utility providers promote the system’s resiliency.”
Renewable energy sources play a part in keeping Wyoming’s systems running, according to Chris Brown, executive director of “Powering Up Wyoming.”
“Wyoming benefits from decades of energy expertise and knows how to produce and distribute energy,” said Brown, whose grassroots organization promotes the use of multiple sources of power, including wind and solar. “Renewables play an important part of the grid and operate in a predictable nature that allows grid operators to balance all energy assets,” he added. “Wind and solar can help work alongside legacy energy sources and provide a diversified source of energy options to help during times of extreme weather.”
Brown said that last year, renewable energy made up 12% of Wyoming’s energy generation portfolio.
“Wyoming was able to get through many different weather events,” he noted.
Murell said even though Wyoming’s power grid is more resilient than the grids in other parts of the country, that doesn’t guarantee that outages don’t occur.
“That is not to say we are completely impervious to extreme weather, but we are better positioned than many others,” said Murell.