Feds OK power lines that will cross Colorado, Utah

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Mead Gru­ver

Two power line projects that won fed­eral ap­proval Tues­day will give a big ca­pac­ity boost to the Western en­ergy grid, in­clud­ing power for up to 1 mil­lion homes from what’s on track to be­come the big­gest wind farm in the U.S.

The Tran­sWest Ex­press project will help Cal­i­for­nia meet its goal of get­ting half its elec­tric­ity from re­new­able sources by 2030 by car­ry­ing up to 3,000 megawatts from the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind farm in south­ern Wy­oming.

The new power lines would span 728 miles from the wind farm to south­ern Ne­vada, cross­ing north­west Colorado and all of Utah along the way.

Den­ver-based The An­schutz Corp., which is be­hind the wind farm and 3,000-megawatt Tran­sWest Ex­press, could be­gin work on both within a cou­ple years if re­main­ing ap­provals and right-of-way ac­qui­si­tion for the power lines go smoothly.

Port­land, Ore.-based Paci­fiCorp, mean­while, plans to in­crease re­li­a­bil­ity and ca­pac­ity with its 416-mile, 1,500megawatt Gate­way South project along a roughly sim­i­lar route end­ing in cen­tral Utah. Con­struc­tion would be­gin in the early 2020s.

The ap­provals to cross U.S. Bureau of Land Man­age­ment land cap al­most a decade of fed­eral plan­ning. About 60 per­cent of Tran­sWest Ex­press and 55 per­cent of Gate­way South cross BLM lands; the power lines also will need to span a patch­work of pri­vate, state and fed­eral lands.

The In­te­rior Depart­ment also an­nounced an agree­ment with Cal­i­for­nia to co­op­er­ate on ex­panded, stream­lined ef­forts to en­cour­age re­new­able power de­vel­op­ment. The agency high­lighted re­new­able en­ergy growth dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s two terms in of­fice, in­clud­ing pro­pos­als for 36 so­lar, 11 wind and 13 geo­ther­mal en­ergy projects.

In­te­rior un­der Obama has ap­proved 4,000 miles of power lines, ac­cord­ing to the agency.

Not all were pleased with the two power lines mov­ing ahead. They will de­stroy wilder­ness-qual­ity lands in north­west­ern Colorado and east­ern Ne­vada and dis­rupt habi­tat for the greater sage grouse, The Wilder­ness So­ci­ety said in a re­lease.

“Read­ily avail­able al­ter­na­tive routes could have min­i­mized or elim­i­nated these im­pacts by fol­low­ing high­ways and des­ig­nated util­ity cor­ri­dors,” said Alex Daue with the group.

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