3GW Wyoming wind application in

Power Company of Wyoming, the developer behind what could become the largest wind project in the world, has submitted a key application to state authorities, putting it on a path to potentially kick off construction later this year.

The developer, owned by US billionaire Phil Anschutz, seeks to install as many as 1,000 turbines – worth up to 3GW of capacity – in phases across two sites in south central Wyoming, in what would be known as the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farms.

The project has received considerable support at the federal level, with the vast area – much of it a working cattle ranch – having been approved as suitable for wind development by the Secretary of the Interior in autumn 2012. The project has also been named by the White House as one of seven “nationally significant” renewable-energy projects.

Since being cleared for take-off by the Interior Department, Power Company of Wyoming (PCW) has been conducting detailed environmental studies on the area, while addressing permitting issues at the state and local level.

This week the developer submitted a key application to the Wyoming Industrial Siting Division, which must holding a permit hearing within 90 days – or by mid-August. The Industrial Siting Council then has another 45 days to issue a decision on the application.

While sited in an area described as having the best onshore wind resource in the US, one challenge for the $5bn mega-project is the lack of nearby electricity demand in sparsely populated Wyoming and neighbouring Colorado.

As such, TransWest Express, a separate project company also owned by the Anschutz Corp. is seeking to build a 3GW transmission line running from Wyoming to an area south of Las Vegas, Nevada, where it could then tie into existing lines running into southern California.

The $3bn TransWest Express transmission line would run for 725 miles (1,170km) and cross the whole of the state of Utah, which itself is nearly equivalent in size to the United Kingdom.

PWC insists that its wind project is not contingent on the TransWest power line going forward – and vice versa.

While California has remained muted in its response to the idea of importing vast amounts of wind power from fossil fuel-rich Wyoming, PWC will surely benefit from the connections and lobbying prowess of Phil Anschulz, who is among the richest Americans, and owns stakes in a variety of professional sports teams and stadia in California.

PWC is not the only mega-wind project underway in Carbon County, Wyoming.

Pathfinder, another developer, is also seeking to build 2GW-3GW of wind capacity in the area, which would be flowed to southern California via the proposed Zephyr transmission line, backed by Duke Energy and American Transmission Company.