Forest Service approves transmission lines

Friday, June 16, 2017

The U.S. Forest Service has released its final approvals for two major electricity transmission lines proposed for development across several western states, issuing Records of Decision for the TransWest Express and Energy Gateway South projects.

The TransWest Express Transmission Project is a high-voltage, direct current regional electric transmission system proposed by TransWest Express LLC.  The 600-kilovolt, bidirectional transmission line would connect the Marketplace Hub near Las Vegas, Nevada, to south-central Wyoming.  A core value of the project is its ability to provide the transmission infrastructure and 3,000 MW of capacity necessary to deliver approximately 20,000 GWh/yr of clean and sustainable electric energy generated in Wyoming (mostly from wind) to Arizona, Nevada and southern California.  Future plans could include another interconnection near Delta, Utah.  The project has links to the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, a proposed 3,000 MW wind farm to be sited in southern Wyoming.

Energy Gateway South is one segment of the larger Energy Gateway Transmission Expansion under development by PacifiCorp.  The 500-kilovolt alternating-current transmission line would run about 400 miles from the planned Aeolus Substation in southeastern Wyoming into the Clover Substation near Mona, Utah.

In each case, the project proponents applied to the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service for a right-of-way grant and special-use permit to construct, operate, and maintain high voltage transmission lines on federally managed land.  The BLM signed Records of Decision on December 13, 2016 for both projects authorizing the agency to issue a 250-foot-wide right-of-way for the line and areas for other project components.
On May 31, the USFS released its final Records of Decision for the TransWest Express and Energy Gateway South projects.  In each case, the Forest Service approved the project and issued a special-use authorization.

Renewable portfolio standards and clean energy mandates are driving the development of wind farms like Chokecherry and Sierra Madre, as well as transmission lines like TransWest Express and Energy Gateway South.  Some of these projects raise issues of siting, rate impacts, and how costs should be allocated.  At the same time, a number of other major transmission lines have been proposed around the country, many of which are similarly motivated by the opportunity to connect new renewable generating resources with distant utilities and consumers. 

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