• Coal-producing Wyoming could soon host one of largest solar farms in US
  • Newsletter
  • Donate
Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Coal-producing Wyoming could soon host one of largest solar farms in US

The 771-megawatt project, slated to start construction in 2025, is part of a trend of big solar-plus-storage plants in unexpected places.
By Eric Wesoff

  • Link copied to clipboard
Solar panel installation in a field
Solar installation in Sweetwater County, WY. (174 Power Global)

Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal-producing state, has begun the initial permitting for the construction of its largest utility-scale solar farm, by far.

The state’s Industrial Siting Council approved a permit for developer Enbridge in early May to build and operate the Cowboy Solar project, which will be built on private land in Laramie County, in the state’s southeast corner, beginning in March 2025. The project will employ an average monthly workforce of 285 temporary employees, with a peak of approximately 375 employees.

Once completed in 2027, the $1.2 billion, 771-megawatt installation will not only be the biggest solar farm in the Cowboy State but also one of the largest solar projects in the U.S.

The project will also include 269 megawatts of battery storage to soak up surplus daytime sunshine and make it available for use later in the day. Solar facilities are increasingly, if not entirely, being colocated with large arrays of batteries for this purpose.

Enbridge is a Canadian energy firm with a massive distribution pipeline for oil and fossil gas, but it has been expanding into alternative energy at a billion-dollar scale since 2002.

The Cowboy Solar permitting process is far from complete, however; while the siting council has been appeased, Enbridge still needs to secure county, environmental, and municipal permits.

Despite the primacy of fossil fuels in Wyoming, a renewable energy land rush is underway in the state, driven by the overwhelmingly strong economics of solar and energy storage, the state’s friendly permitting process, and the newly revised draft of the Biden administration’s Western Solar Plan. That ambitious plan opens up more U.S. Bureau of Land Management acreage than ever before in an effort to steward solar development on public lands in the coming decades.

Although Wyoming has been a laggard in solar, ranking 46th among U.S. states, with just 124 megawatts deployed, it’s no slouch when it comes to wind power. The state has been taking advantage of its excellent resources, doubling its wind generation since 2019, which accounted for 22 percent of its total electricity production in 2022. Wyoming had just over 3 gigawatts of wind power capacity at the beginning of 2023, according to the EIA.

While record-setting utility-scale solar-plus-storage plants have become commonplace in sunny spots like Texas, Florida, and California, a new and real trend has emerged of siting these ginormous plants in less obvious places such as Minnesota, Ohio, Louisiana, and now Wyoming. Smart energy policy and compelling economics do not recognize state borders.

Eric Wesoff is the executive director at Canary Media.