The key to Wyoming's energy future lies in hybrid energy systems and diversification of energy resources, according to a study recently released by the Wyoming Business Council.
The study, commissioned through Idaho National Laboratory in conjunction with the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources, indicates a growing need to increase Wyoming's energy mix. The study came about under direction from the state legislature as a way to evaluate some energy futures.
"Wyoming has a wealth of primary energy resources in the forms of coal, natural gas, wind, uranium and oil shale," INL observed in the report. "Most of Wyoming's coal and gas resources are exported from the state in unprocessed form rather than as refined higher value products."
Because of that propensity to ship out raw material, Wyoming leaders have seen an opportunity to add value to those exports by making commodity chemicals or synthetic motor fuels, according to the study. The study then concludes that Wyoming's energy supply can benefit from new wind and nuclear generation. Currently, the state has no nuclear facilities, even on a smaller, hybrid scale.
Recently, state legislators drafted a bill that would allow for the development of nuclear power generation and storage of exhausted fuels within state boundaries only from Wyoming facilities. So it is possible the state will soon be host to nuclear generation, especially with renewed interest in uranium mining in the Gas Hills and elsewhere.
Such diversification of energy sources should help in multiple ways, especially in complementary usage. The study pinpoints a nuclear power plant that uses its energy to supply power either for a synthetic fuels manufacturing plant or feeds into the grid based on demand.
"When power demand is lower, the nuclear plant delivers less electricity to the grid and more steam to the process plant which in turn reduces the amount of fossil fuels that are combusted to produce steam," the study states. "In this manner, the nuclear plant is operated at constant capacity to take advantage of its capital investment and thermodynamic efficiency."
Whatever the case, the study calls for change.
"Regardless of the approach to Wyoming's energy future," the study reads, "the investment decisions made by industry and enabled by Wyoming must be technologically diverse and flexible to allow Wyoming and its industries to adjust to changing global energy realities."
Among those changing realities are coal's expected slide from dominance and persisting low natural gas prices over the next decade. Officials from UW and the Wyoming Business Council were unavailable for comment on plans to use the new data.
Following are suggested actions for the state from the report.
- Strengthening the coal and natural gas economy in Wyoming by building a carbon-conversion industry.
- Ensuring continued reliable and affordable sources of energy for Wyoming's industries and people by diversifying the technologies for generating electric power.
- Capitalizing on anticipated growth of the nuclear energy industry by producing higher-value products from uranium.
For more Daily news click here and look under 'Breaking News'