Electricity meets wind
During his 30-plus years at Black & Veatch, Bill Boyd worked on electric utility projects. When the 1970 MU electrical engineering graduate started working for the now-global engineering and construction firm, B&V was purely an engineering consulting firm, employing less than 1,000 people.
When Boyd left B&V to work for independent power producer NRG Energy, he was senior vice president of B&V’s energy business, and the company had more than 10,000 employees.
“I learned how to be an engineer by designing and constructing power plants and substations, and running power lines,” said Boyd of his time with the company.
“Independent power was big in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the collapse of Enron took a lot of people down,” Boyd said, explaining that Enron construction subsidiaries held contracts with lots of independents, including NRG, and then defaulted on the work. “NRG subsequently declared bankruptcy, but they did it with a plan.
“It was probably the single biggest learning experience of my career,” he said, adding that the company came out of bankruptcy within 18 months by working day-to-day with stakeholders and the Federal Bankruptcy Court.
Jump forward to 2008. Successful businessman and entrepreneur Phil Anschutz learned that his 325,000-acre ranch near Rawlins, Wyo., had the best wind regime in North America and contacted Boyd about coming to work for him.
“Knowing nothing about electric utilities, Phil searched around for someone with experience and found me. His proposition was interesting, and I joined on,” said Boyd. “We started the process of building a wind energy business with 1,000 turbines.”
Boyd, who holds the title of executive vice president and chief operating officer of Wyoming Renewable Resources and its affiliate companies, is responsible for the development, construction and the ultimate operation of the wind farm and the associated 725-mile high-voltage direct current transmission line — TransWest Express — that will deliver nearly three gigawatts of renewable energy into the desert southwest — all privately funded by Anschutz. When completed, the project will be the largest wind energy project in the United States.
“For the past seven years, we’ve been studying the data from 35 meteorological towers that have been measuring the wind on our property, and they show that we have some of the best capacity factors in the country,” Boyd said.
And after six years of dedicated effort, Boyd and his team of just over a dozen employees — and several hired consultants — also recently completed the federal permitting process for the wind farm and are within a few months of completing the process for the transmission line.
“Working with a small group of highly qualified engineers, the atmosphere is electric,” Boyd said. “I love it.”
Permitting included environmental impacts statements; research and reports filled eight hefty volumes.
“We’ve done extensive studies to protect wildlife, looking at birds’ migration patterns, and the native sage grouse,” said Boyd. He added that they had worked with MU William J. Rucker Professor of Wildlife Conservation Josh Milspaugh on some of the studies.
“I didn’t see myself going into power,” said Boyd of his own days at Mizzou. “Back then, everybody was looking at NASA. But one of my professors, James Tudor, received some money as chair of power studies, and what came of it was me focusing my studies on power. I had no idea how interesting it was,” he said.
“The opportunity set me on a new path.”
Boyd’s advice to students is to take advantage of all that the MU College of Engineering has to offer.
“Don’t screw yourself down to what you think you want to do,” he said. “It’s a great engineering school with all of the capabilities to impart the education you will need for a successful future.
“I’ve had a wonderful 45-plus year career that has allowed me to travel the world and meet terrific people. Fundamentally, however, I’m an engineer, and my personal foundation was laid at Mizzou, and it has allowed me to be involved in building some of the biggest and most complex facilities you can imagine,” Boyd said.
“What gets my juices flowing every day is knowing that I’m involved in some of the most critical infrastructure projects of a generation.”
During the week, Boyd operates out of the Anschutz Corporation’s offices in Denver. Weekends are spent with his wife Connie, a 1970 alumna of MU’s School of Nursing, in their home in Kansas City.