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Energy

Transmission lines needed for growth

Written by Jennifer Womack

By Jennifer Womack, WLR Managing Editor 

Douglas – “The existing system is full,” said PacifiCorp’s Kenneth Houston at the Jan. 8 Roping the Wind Conference in Douglas.
    Houston’s comments were echoed daylong, but paralleling that was news of transmission lines to come in the not-too-distant future. “Wind is hot,” said Jerry Vaninetti, Vice President of Western Development for Trans-Elect. “From here to Cheyenne, particularly around Chugwater,” said Vaninetti, whose company is in the planning stages for the Colorado-Wyoming Intertie, “is some of the highest quality wind close to a load center. It’s almost criminal that this hasn’t been tapped.”
    With 319 MW developed, he said Wyoming is home to 257,650 of developable MW. That compares to an estimated 73,130 developable MW in Colorado with 1066 already developed. Vaninetti said there’s a reason that the bulk of Colorado’s development has occurred in its most northern reaches near the Wyoming state line where the quality of wind improves.
    According to Loyd Drain, Development Director with the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, five transmission projects equaling 13,000 MW of transmission capacity are in various stages of development. Speaking in Douglas Jan. 8 he said WIA estimates there to be 17,000 MW of wind projects ongoing that they consider viable. Of that, 8,000 MW are in southeast Wyoming, 8,190 in southwest Wyoming and 700 MW in the Powder River Basin. Exact routes haven’t yet been determined for any of the transmission projects being considered. Here’s a look at what’s being planned in the way of transmission to get electricity produced by wind and other means to market:
TransWest Express
    This 500-kV DC transmission line would stretch from the Dave Johnson Power Plant in central Wyoming into southwest Wyoming, transect Utah before entering Las Vegas and turning south to Phoenix, Az. With a length of 1,000 miles the line has a capacity of 3,000 MW and a project in-service date of 2015.
    Arizona is growing at a rate three times the national average making it the fastest growing state in the nation. With that is a growing opportunity to sell Wyoming-generated electricity into the state.
Gateway South
    Stretching from central Wyoming to Las Vegas, this 500-kV AC transmission line with a capacity of 3000 MW would span 800 miles from central Wyoming across Utah and end in Las Vegas. It has a projected in-service date of 2014.
    “2014 sounds like a long time,” said Houston, “but when you’re talking about an interstate system for power, it’s not that long.” Houston’s company recently abandoned plans for two proposed coal-fired plants and announced plans to develop wind generation near its Glenrock-based Dave Johnson Power Plant. “Our resource plan has shifted from new coal to renewables,” said Houston.
    As wind production comes on-line Houston predicts traditional power sources may be turned up and down to balance loads on the lines. Between now and the addition of new transmission he predicts interim policies for line capacity may be needed.
Gateway West
    Carrying power from Wyoming to Idaho, this 500-kV line with a capacity of 3000 MW is a project being led by PacifiCorp and Idaho Power. It has an in service date of 2012 although Houston said that date may be a little aggressive.
    If everyone who has expressed interest in the line continues with the proposed projects, Houston said the line’s capacity might be expanded. His company is asking interested parties to make a five year commitment to be considered for space on newly constructed lines.
    Wyoming-Colorado Intertie
    Previously referred to as TOT3, this line would stretch from the Wheatland area to the Denver market. This 345-kV transmission line has a proposed capacity of 900 megawatts and an in-service date projected at 2013.
    “We can save people in Colorado money by sending them Wyoming wind,” said Vaninetti who estimates that savings at $267 million over 20 years. Colorado requirements for generating wind in state have been met putting Wyoming-produced wind on a level playing field during future purchases, he explained.
    An open season, where those seeking capacity on the Intertie line can place their bids, is planned for later this year.  Vaninetti says the most economical mix on transmission lines is around a 50-50 split between wind energy and other sources. Many are looking to couple wind resources with production via natural gas, which ramps up more quickly than coal-fired production.
    Drain anticipates the lines capacity could be expanded if demand shows such a need.
High Plains Express
    A feasibility study is being carried out on a line that would run from Wyoming to Colorado to New Mexico and on to Arizona with a capacity of 3500 MW. A target date of 2017 to have the line in service has been set.
    Potential wind developers, and others looking to export electricity from the Cowboy State, have two options to get their product to market. They can seek capacity through an existing utility like PacifiCorp or they can partner with a company specializing in the construction of transmission lines to support a line with shared capacity coming to an area where it’s needed. “Our queue is full,” said Houston noting that there are numerous requests, largely being made by wind developers.
    As Vaninetti put it, “You can fill out requests and hope to see the utility build to you or the alternative is independent transportation. It’s more proactive than reactive.”
    As was pointed out by Dennis Finn of Wartsila North America, natural gas can be used in what he calls “firming” wind power generation to meet load demands. Drain says this may provide additional opportunity for Wyoming as the state looks to export electricity from multiple sources.
    Passage of renewable energy standards in states across the nation continues to drive the demand for green energy. California law requires that 20 percent of its energy demands be met by renewable sources by 2010. The state is also requiring that all growth in demand be met with renewable energy. Colorado requires 16.1 percent of its power to come from green sources by 2020. Montana has a goal of meeting 15 percent of its needs with renewable sources by 2015.