WAPA, TransWest agree to fund development phase of 600-kV line

The Western Area Power Administration and TransWest Express have reached an agreement to fund the development phase of the 725-mile, 600-kV TransWest Express Transmission Project.

This phase will determine the feasibility of building and operating the direct current transmission line project, which would facilitate renewable energy delivery from Wyoming to the southwestern United States, according to a joint Sept. 9 statement.

The project would interconnect with the existing transmission grid near Rawlins, Wyo., and the Marketplace Hub near Las Vegas, Nev.

Western is providing its share of funding through the 2009 borrowing authority amendment to the Hoover Act.

Specifically, $3.25B was set aside in a U.S. Treasury revolving fund in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act amendment to the Hoover Power Plant Act of 1984 so Western can fund transmission projects in its service area that integrate renewable energy into the grid or are in the public interest. While Western borrows this money at the onset of the projects, it will be repaid by the owners and beneficiaries of the project during the project’s service life, and the money is returned to the revolving fund to be used for other applicable Western transmission projects.

According to the statement, under the agreement’s terms, Western and TransWest will each pay up to $25 million to complete the development phase. If Western continues its participation in the project into the construction phase, additional borrowing authority would be used to help fund the project, the statement added.

Western spokesperson Lisa Meiman said Sept. 14: “If we continue with the project, Western will receive 50% ownership in the line, and will fund up to $1.5B of the about $3B project. The rest will be funded by TWE LLC. The $1.5B includes the $25M for the development phase.”

She continued: “Western will determine whether to continue the project after the development phase, which includes completing the environmental impact statement, path ratings, technical studies and land acquisition, among other activities. There are a lot of factors we need to look into.”

TransWest Express spokesperson Kara Choquette said Sept. 14 that Western and TransWest formalized the agreement for working together and co-funding the development phase, building on the initial non-binding term sheet that the two entities signed in early 2010.

“The development phase includes the engineering design, planning work, environmental analysis, and related permitting activities necessary before construction could begin,” she said. “The agreement further strengthens Western and TWE’s relationship as we move toward getting more cost-effective renewable energy supplies to the markets that need it, creating more jobs [and] strengthening the western U.S. power grid.”

In the statement, Western Administrator Tim Meeks said, “This agreement is a significant step for the TWE Project, which is intended to deliver reliable, cost-effective renewable energy from Wyoming to the major energy markets of the Southwest.”

TransWest Express President and CEO Bill Miller said in the statement, “The TWE project will create jobs, strengthen the nation’s electrical grid, and add 3,000 MW of capacity for clean energy.”

Western and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are joint lead agencies for the ongoing preparation of an environmental impact statement for the project. The 90-day scoping period of the environmental analysis ended April 4. The draft environmental impact statement is planned to be available for public comment in mid-2012, with a final EIS planned by 2013, and a record of decision by late 2013. Commercial operation would begin in late 2015 or early 2016, the statement added.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2843 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 14 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.