Before the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm project can provide any communities with energy, the transmission lines to take the electricity out of state need to be up and running.
TransWest is a transmission line project headed up by Anschutz Corporation – the same company behind the wind farm – and is set to build 725 miles of extra-high voltage, direct-current power lines, 90 miles of which will be in Wyoming.
The project dates back to the early 2000s, before the Chokecherry wind farm, said Kara Choquette, director of communications for the Power Company of Wyoming. The lines will extend from Medicine Bow to Las Vegas.
“The original configuration was designed to end near the Hoover Dam,” Choquette said. “It makes sense to tap into (the power grid there).”
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is out to the coordinators of the project, including the governments of each county the lines are set to run through, and will be out to the public in 2013, Choquette said.
The lines would be designed to put power in at the northern end – the primary power source will be the Chokecherry wind farm – and distribute it at the southern end. Capacity for the lines would be large enough to carry the estimated 3,000 megawatts generated by the wind farm, Choquette said.
Building the lines will cost about $3 billion; building the substation in Carbon County to connect to the grid will cost about $1 billion, she said.
The lines would create 20-25 ongoing maintenance jobs, Choquette said. Between $3.4 and $4.8 million in property taxes is slated to go to communities in Carbon County.
Several routes are being considered for the portion of lines through Carbon County and Sweetwater County.
The proposed route hasn’t changed, but there is a “reasonable range of alternatives to (the original) route,” Choquette said.
One alternative would take the lines through Baggs and Dixon.
That alternative is not a likely scenario, though, said Mike Kelly, an attorney for the county. The commissioners are opposed to that route and so are the people of Baggs and Dixon.
“The last diagram we’ve seen from TransWest, I’m happy with,” said Baggs Mayor Katharine Staman.
“If they keep them where they showed us they would be, which is west of town and not across our valley. At one point there were some plans where it came off the hill above Dixon and onto our valley.”
Another concern is that highway 70 was designated a scenic byway this year. People of the Valley fear the power lines strung across the highway will dampen the tourism that the designation is supposed to bring to the Valley, Staman said.
“We’ve seen the Platte and we’ve seen where they proposed to have it and what was approved right now. Now if they were going to change that and put it back through here, then no. Absolutely not.”
Other possible routes are farther west of Baggs, Kelly said. The Carbon County Commissioners and the Sweetwater County Commissioners favor a route along the counties’ border, Kelly said.
Pending approval of the project, construction is scheduled to begin by the end of 2014 and finish in 2016, Choquette said.
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