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Guest Opinions

Wyoming Infrastructure Authority Moves Ahead

Written by Loyd Drain

By Loyd Drain, Executive Director, Wyoming Infrastructure Authority

The month of July 2011 has produced some renewed attention relative to the power generation and transmission progress in Wyoming. LS Power issued a news release on July 14 relative to the Wyoming Colorado Intertie Project, and on July 22, Power Company of Wyoming (PCW) issued an announcement that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had filed a draft EIS relative to PCW’s large wind generation development in Carbon County.

The amount of new regional transmission infrastructure built in the West in the last quarter-century is negligible, and the current electric infrastructure in Wyoming is at capacity, with little to no transmission space available for new generation. There are currently six transmission projects under various stages of development in the state. In addition to the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA) being a supporter of all of the transmission projects in the state, it is currently serving as a participating partner in the development of two of the projects – the Wyoming Colorado Intertie and the High Plains Express.

The permitting and siting process for new transmission is a lengthy, costly process. Since all the projects, with one exception, are expected to traverse public lands, an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be secured relative to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The estimated time required to obtain an EIS is four to five years, and some project developers estimate the cost to obtain such will exceed $50 million. The total estimated cost for the projects varies from $300 million to $5 billion. Only three of the projects have initiated the NEPA process, and the WIA is currently working with Governor Mead’s office to explore ways to mitigate the amount of time and cost relative to the NEPA process requirements for transmission.

Relative to those projects in the NEPA process, the WIA sees significant progress being made, namely for PacifiCorp’s Gateway West (GWW – Wyoming to Idaho and beyond) and Gateway South (GWS – Wyoming to Utah) projects and TransWest Express LLC’s TransWest Express Transmission Project (TWE – Wyoming to southern Nevada). Since the Wyoming Colorado Intertie Project (WCI – Wyoming to Colorado) does not expect to encounter public lands, no EIS is required.

PacifiCorp’s expansive Energy Gateway Project is made up of three distinct segments: Gateway West, Gateway South and Gateway Central (between Idaho and Utah). A draft EIS is expected to be published for the Gateway West Project in the next 60 days and in 2013 for Gateway South. These projects are being developed to serve PacifiCorp’s customers in the West with varying in-service dates of 2016 to 2019. The PacifiCorp projects will serve native-load customers. PacifiCorp, as a utility, has an obligation to serve its customers pursuant to the jurisdiction of state regulators.

TransWest Express LLC’s Project is being developed to serve customers in the Desert Southwest and California with a proposed line from Carbon County to a point south of Las Vegas, Nev., which will interconnect with the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO) System. A draft EIS is expected in 2012, with a projected in-service date of 2015 to 2016. Western Area Power Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, is evaluating owning 50 percent of the TWE Project to help further its mission to facilitate delivery of more renewable energy

In the July 14 news release, an LS Power affiliate, Wyoming Colorado Intertie, LLC, announced that a third party has made application for 100 percent of the WCI Project’s capacity, which will deliver power to the Front Range of Colorado. LS Power and WIA are funding the WCI Project development on a 50/50 basis, with the LS Power affiliate serving as the lead developer.
For the TWE and WCI projects to proceed to the financing and construction stage, commercial arrangement will need to be in place.

The other transmission projects in Wyoming are in various stages of development; however, they have yet to enter the NEPA process. Those include:

Zephyr: TransCanada is developing this project (Wyoming to Idaho to southern Nevada). TransCanada held an Open Season for capacity in 2010, which resulted in the combination of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, a Wyoming-based company, BP Wind and Horizon Wind Energy securing 100 percent of the capacity.

Overland: This project is being developed by Jade Energy Associates, LLC, an affiliate of LS Power Group (Wyoming to Idaho to interconnect with the SWIP Project, which extends into southern Nevada – a portion of the SWIP project is under construction).

High Plains Express: There are a total of 12 developers for this project, including the WIA (Wyoming to Colorado to New Mexico to Arizona).

For more detailed information on all of the transmission projects, visit the WIA website at wyia.org.
Supply/Demand for Renewable Energy in the West

The current demand for electricity in the West is primarily for renewable energy in the form of wind and solar. Despite the fact that Wyoming possesses world-class wind resources, there is a significant oversupply of developable renewable energy in the West compared to forecasted demand through 2025. While states in the West have expressed a desire to develop their renewable energy needs with indigenous resources, the WIA remains optimistic that some transmission developers in Wyoming will be successful in their efforts to deliver Wyoming’s cost-effective renewable energy to the marketplace.

Other Efforts by the WIA

The WIA has funded a number of studies relative to transmission and generation development, including the NREL Study for Wyoming, which further quantifies economic benefits and job creation relative to new transmission infrastructure in the state; the ICF Line Separation Study, which address the spacing between transmission lines; the ICF Phase 1 and 2 Collector System Studies, which examine possible configuration of collector lines between generation and proposed transmission lines, as well as an in-depth study of natural gas-fired generation to address the variability of wind energy; and studies by the University of Wyoming that examine the geographical diversity benefits of blending Wyoming wind from various locations in the state, as well as existing power on the grid of other states. The studies, which are expected to be completed soon, have shown that such blending will mitigate the ramping events of renewable energy on the grid, which reduces the amount of dispatchable energy required to integrate renewables onto the grid. Completed studies can be viewed/downloaded on the WIA website in the Documents Section.
Summary

Progress is being made in the effort to add new power transmission infrastructure in Wyoming that will export Wyoming’s abundant resources in the form of electric generation to the marketplace, bringing a significant number of new permanent jobs to the state, as well as significant revenues. The new infrastructure, with a service life of over 50 years, will also result in the opportunity to add natural gas-fired generation to the mix and other Wyoming-based resources in the future.
About the WIA

The WIA, an instrumentality of the state of Wyoming, was established in 2004 by the Wyoming Legislature to diversify and expand the state’s economy through improvements in the electric transmission system and to facilitate the increased utilization of Wyoming’s energy resources. The WIA is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of five members appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.