CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Two power line projects that won federal approval Tuesday will give a 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 wind farm in Wyoming. The new power lines would span 728 miles from the wind farm to southern Nevada, crossing Colorado and 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-based PacifiCorp plans to increase reliability and capacity with its 416-mile, 1,500-megawatt Gateway South project along a roughly similar route ending in central Utah. Construction would begin in the early 2020s.
Gateway South will join the utility’s completed Gateway Central and planned Gateway West expansions crisscrossing the region.
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 other federal lands.
The Interior Department 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.
Not all were pleased with the power lines moving ahead. They will destroy wilderness-quality lands in Colorado and Nevada and disrupt habitat for the greater sage grouse, The Wilderness Society said.
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