Four companies, including one co-headquartered in Texas, recently proposed an $8 billion project that could change the way 1.2 million Southern California households get power. The green energy initiative would link one of the nation’s largest wind farms to one of the world’s biggest energy storage facilities.
If approved and financed, the facility would send vast amounts of wind energy — the output equivalent to a large nuclear power plant — to the Los Angeles area by 2023.
Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, whose corporate activities are in Dallas, along with Magnum Energy, Dresser-Rand and Duke-American Transmission Co., plan to submit a blueprint to the Southern California Public Power Authority by early 2015 that includes creating one of the country’s largest wind farms near Cheyenne, Wyoming, along with a storage site near Delta, Utah, and a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting them.
Sammons Enterprises, a $45 billion private company based in Dallas, is the lead investor in Pathfinder, which would build, own and operate the proposed $4 billion wind farm.
John Reed, Pathfinder co-founder and managing director and a Tech Wildcatters partner, says that Jeff Meyer is the one who introduced Dallas to the conversation of wind energy initiatives across the country by getting this project funded. Meyer, managing partner of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, calls this project a “21st century Hoover Dam.”
Sammons Enterprises, a $45 billion private company based in Dallas, is the lead investor in Pathfinder. That funding allowed Pathfinder to acquire 250,000 acres of working ranches in 2008; they have since added to that figure to reach 700,000 acres. Pathfinder would build, own and operate the proposed $4 billion wind farm and help install the $1.5 billion storage system.
“Jeff Meyer originated the concept of combining ranch ownership with renewable energy development,” Reed says. “He has worked tirelessly for six years to create the coalition of industry players that led to last month’s announcement.”
Under the proposal, the underground energy storage facility, using a compressed air system in four vertical caverns carved out of an underground salt formation on the site, would help solve one of renewable energy’s biggest challenges: its intermittency. Wind farms produce no electricity when there's no wind; solar farms produce no electricity when there’s no sun.
Linking the wind farm to the energy storage facility would enable the wind farm to function largely like a traditional coal, nuclear or natural gas power plant — capable of reliably delivering large amounts of electricity whenever needed, based on customer demand.
The energy storage facility also would reduce the need for LA-area utilities to build expensive backup power plants and power lines to serve customers on days when there’s no wind, at night when there’s no sunlight, and during other periods when traditional wind and solar farms are unable to produce electricity.
This project is not only exciting for the states it impacts, but also for the home of one of the lead investor groups, which considers itself on the cusp of something truly spectacular in the world of wind energy.
“Pathfinder’s Dallas investor base is indicative of the entrepreneurial backbone of Dallas business,” Reed says. “Each of our investors has a strong interest in sustainability and the environment, combined with a mandate to build businesses and generate long-term returns.”
Reed says that Pathfinder’s equity ownership is 100 percent in DFW, but with strategic relationships from across the nation. He feels that it’s a shining example of what can be accomplished when you apply Meyer’s original thinking with entrepreneurial investors and solid business practices.
“What is unique to Dallas — and what is a real asset for the community — is a culture of financial decision-making that allows original thinking and individual responsibility for what are traditionally institutional investments made by an investment committee.”