Plan would bring wind power from the Great Plains to California

Philip Anschutz hopes to import thousands of megawatts from a massive wind farm in Wyoming. California officials are skeptical.

Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, who has pushed to bring a football stadium to Los Angeles, also wants to bring wind power to California.

A plan being marketed in Sacramento would bring California utilities thousands of megawatts of electricity from a massive wind farm in Wyoming being developed by the entertainment and energy mogul who also developed L.A. Live and Staples Center.

The idea is being promoted by Wyoming state officials who say that, besides benefiting Anschutz, it could be an economic boost for the Cowboy State and an environmental plus for California, providing cleaner power at a good price.

The proposal comes at a time when renewable energy is a priority for California utilities. A state law requires that by 2020, they produce 33% of their power from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal. A variety of California companies already provide wind power, and other firms in and out of the state have also expressed interest in providing renewable power.

The proposed Wyoming wind farm and high-voltage transmission line — aimed for completion between 2016 and 2018 — face regulatory, corporate and political hurdles.

In California, its supporters highlight the environmental and economic pluses, while doubters question the wisdom of buying out-of-state power and losing "green jobs" to Wyoming. The administration of Gov. Jerry Brown, while noncommittal, has been unenthusiastic and has raised questions about the idea.

The Wyoming wind farm and power transmission lines are being developed by two Anschutz Corp. subsidiaries: Power Co. of Wyoming and Transwest Express. In all, they plan to invest up to $9 billion on 1,000 generators at a 500-square-mile ranch on Interstate 80 in south-central Wyoming. The area boasts some of the nation's most consistently strong winds.

Last fall, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved plans for the wind farm, much of it on federal land. He described it as potentially the largest wind energy project in the United States. It faces further environmental review, but officials hope to start construction in 2014.

Separately, environmental officials are reviewing the impact of the proposed 725-mile transmission line from the ranch to the Eldorado Valley south of Las Vegas near Boulder City, Nev.

From there, Wyoming officials and the Anschutz subsidiaries hope California utilities will buy and deliver wind power over existing transmission lines that boosters say could carry enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1.9 million Southern California homes. Any such agreement would have to be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission.

Anschutz is no stranger to energy projects, and his companies have considerable clout in Sacramento and Los Angeles City Hall.

The 72-year-old parlayed his father's oil and gas business into railroads, telecommunications companies, newspapers and movie production companies, turning him into one of America's richest entrepreneurs with a net worth estimated near $7 billion.

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