Energy Trends Conference Touches On Transmission Capacity, Blockchain Use

Apr 6, 2018

Energy Trends Conference held by the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority
Credit Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Coal has railroads, oil and gas have pipelines, but transferring renewable energy isn’t so easy. Wyoming has one of the best wind resources in the country, though many see a ceiling to its success due to transmission capacity limits. 

Expanding Transmission in Wyoming was one of five panels within the Energy Trends conference organized by the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority. 

In the panel, representatives from Black Hills Energy and Anschutz, an oil and gas company, spoke about developed and developing transmission corridors to connect the mountain west to more regions of the country.

Dan Kline, Black Hills Energy Director of Transmission and Engineering Services, says it’s clear there’s an appetite for more renewable energy due to the transmission projects underway. And he says, as they’re developed, Wyoming will be in a perfect spot to take advantage of the growing renewable markets, while also remaining a leader in energy exports.

“Wyoming… it's really positioned very well to be able to move power east or west depending on how the market’s functioning or where powers needed at any given time,” he said.

Kline said, right now, transmission is still limited, and that impacts how much renewable energy can be produced.

Another panel focused on the future of blockchain: a new technology used for cryptocurrency that could also change the game for utilities in Wyoming. The method would allow customers to buy electricity straight from a wind farm instead of going through a power company. In other words, avoid the middleman and go straight to the supplier.

Michael McElhany, Senior Vice President and Regional Manager for the Western Area Power Administration, said cities like Las Vegas have already implemented blockchain for electricity usage.

“All of the casinos in Las Vegas don’t get served by NV energy anymore. They’re transacting in a world where they’re buying their own power, bypassing the utility, so it’s a game changer,” he said.

Three University of Wyoming Professors spoke on the panel. Dr. Pawan Jain, who is on the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition Advisory Board, said Wyoming could be a good candidate to use the technology to pay for electricity transmission.  This year Wyoming lawmakers voted to reduce roadblocks to block-chain technology and passed legislation that should help developers to set up shop in the state. 

The Energy Trends conference featured conversations on larger utility-scale projects and remarks from U.S. Senator John Barrasso.