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Plans for new power grid taking shape  

Two power suppliers wanting to construct 1,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and new substations in Colorado and Kansas are refining the routes for the project, officials said last week.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and the Western Area Power Administration are teaming on the Eastern Plains Transmission Project, which will cost anywhere from $8 million to $1 billion.

Randy Wilkerson, a public affairs specialist for Western, said that based on comments from the public during meetings held in September in the affected areas, proposed and alternative routes for the lines have been changed.

“We have changed the routes somewhat – we have also began doing some analysis on those routes, looking at them based on 47 different criteria,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said among the standards are engineering characteristics, which includes cost and how many miles of line, and land use issues.

“All those things have been analyzed. The land-use portion analyzes whether the lines are going through rangeland (or) irrigated crop land and how many residences it’s going by,” Wilkerson said.

“We are trying to find a route that has the least impact overall.”

The new facilities will help Tri-State and Western meet contractual obligations and improve system reliability.

Tri-State is a wholesale power supplier owned by the 44 electric cooperatives it serves, including one in Lamar. Tri-State will own and operate most of the project’s facilities. The company also will build new substations and expand existing substations for the project.

A major hurdle for wind energy developers on the Eastern Plains has been the lack of adequate transmission capacity.

Lee Boughey, public relations manager for Tri-State, said the project will open windows for wind energy producers in the region.

“This project will provide additional opportunities for interconnections, particularly those from wind power developers – this system is going to help open up a lot of those markets to wind development and make those projects more economically feasible,” Boughey said.

Boughey said Tri-State has received about 1,000 megawatts worth of wind power interconnection requests that are tied to the Eastern Plains Transmission Project.

“That does not mean that all of those projects would interconnect, but what it does demonstrate is that there is significant demand in these areas for these projects and a need for transmission, so we are moving forward with the project and the benefits are going to be far reaching throughout the region,” Boughey said.

Western, which is one of four power marketing administrations in the U.S. Department of Energy whose role is to market and transmit electricity from federally owned and operated multi-use water projects, will be responsible for construction planning and management of the project.

Wilkerson said that his overriding concern is the proximity of the transmission lines to residents.

“Sometimes, we are not identifying a route with the least impact as our proposed route because it may have effected too many residents,” Wilkerson said.

There are currently 14 proposed routes and 14 alternative routes on the table.

The project includes about 1,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and related facilities in eastern Colorado and western Kansas, including:

Fifteen new high-voltage transmission lines.

Four new substations.

Eight expanded or upgraded substations.

Several fiber optic communication facilities.

According to a conceptual map of the proposed project, proposed lines would run from a substation near Garden City, Kan., to a substation in Lamar. The map also shows a line from the Lamar substation to a substation in Boone. From there a line would run to the Midway Substation between Colorado Springs and Pueblo, then to the Limon area.

Wilkerson says that a specific route for the transmission lines has not been set and the company will continue to revise routes based on comments from public meetings held this month.

Western is preparing an environmental impact statement to ensure that public input and environmental effects are considered in its decision to participate in the project.

Wilkerson said the EIS will address the construction, operation and maintenance of the transmission lines and other facilities. In addition, the EIS will address expansions of existing substations, along with the construction of new substations, access roads and fiber-optic communication facilities. The EIS should come out in July and at that point people will have the opportunity to review it and provide more comments.

Wilkerson said the two power suppliers will hold five public hearings concerning the EIS next summer. The final EIS is expected to be complete in December.

A three-year construction period is scheduled to start in late 2008 or early 2009, with the project in place and operational in 2012.

LEARN MORE

For more information on the project or to make comments regarding transmission line corridors, call 888-826-4710 or visit www.wapa.gov/transmission/eptp.htm .

By Anthony A. Mestas
The Pueblo Chieftain

chieftain.com

25 February 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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