The Obama administration said Oct. 5 that it would accelerate the permitting and construction of seven proposed electric transmission lines that cross 12 states, including Oregon, Wisconsin and New Jersey.
The chosen projects are:
Click on project names to view TransmissionHub project profiles that include data, locator maps, detailed maps and related articles and documents.
The approximately 300-mile, 500-kV Boardman-Hemingway Line proposed by Idaho Power that would go from a proposed substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho. Idaho Power is the chief operating subsidiary of holding company IDACORP (NYSE:IDA).
The approximately 1,150-mile Gateway West Transmission Line Project proposed by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power that, according to the project’s website, would include about 300 miles of 230-kV lines in Wyoming and about 800 miles of 500-kV lines in Wyoming and Idaho. The project is scheduled for line segments to be completed in phases between 2015 and 2018. Rocky Mountain Power is a division of PacifiCorp and part of MidAmerican Energy Holdings.
The CapX2020 Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse transmission line, which, according to its website, includes about 125 miles of 345-kV line and 15 to 18 miles of 161-kV line, and whose targeted in-service date is between 2013 and 2015. CapX2020 is a joint initiative of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region, including Xcel Energy, (NYSE:XEL) to expand the electric transmission grid.
The approximately 210-mile, 500-kV Cascade Crossing Transmission Project proposed by Portland General Electric that would go from Boardman to Salem, Ore.
The approximately 460-mile, 500-kV Sunzia Southwest Transmission Project sponsored by Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Shell Wind Energy and Southwestern Power Group II/MMR Group. According to the project’s website, the project will connect and deliver renewable energy resources in Arizona and New Mexico to population centers in the desert southwest. Tucson Electric Power is the principal subsidiary of UniSource Energy (NYSE:UNS).
The approximately 145-mile, 500-kV Susquehanna to Roseland proposed by PPL’s (NYSE:PPL) PPL Electric Utilities and Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG) subsidiary Public Service Electric and Gas that would go from the Susquehanna substation in Pennsylvania to the Roseland substation in New Jersey. The project, which also includes several 500 – 230-kV substations in the two states, is expected to be in service in the spring of 2015.
The 700-mile, 600-kV TransWest Express Transmission Project, whose development phase will be funded by the Western Area Power Administration and TransWest Express.
Response from project proponents
A Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson said Oct. 5 that work on the Gateway West project has been ongoing since 2007, and the company is hopeful that the new process assists with the project’s completion.
According to a CapX2020 spokesperson, the Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse transmission line is one of four projects that are part of CapX2020. Those projects combined are about 730 miles long – the Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse line, which has an estimated cost of $450m, is about 150 miles long, with about 90 miles in Minnesota and 60 miles in Wisconsin, the spokesperson said.
The project was first proposed in 2005 and the regulatory permit process began in Minnesota in 2007, as did the process with the federal agency, the Rural Utilities Service. The state process is expected to be complete in mid-2012.
John Sullivan, director of the Cascade Crossing project, said Oct. 5 that the scheduled in-service date for the project, which will cost between $800m and $1bn, is either 4Q16 or 1Q17.
Permitting began in 2010 and is set to end in 2014, he said. “With any luck, [the administration’s announced efforts] may accelerate the permitting schedule with coordination of federal, state and tribal” entities, he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Idaho Power said Oct. 5 that the cost estimate for both the Boardman-Hemingway and Gateway West projects is about $1.5m per mile to construct. The in-service date for the Boardman-Hemingway project is 2016.
The company said until it has a chance to further review and understand the details of the administration’s efforts, it will not speculate on what it means for it or its customers.
“However, IPC has learned through experience that the process of permitting major transmission projects is very challenging and extremely time-consuming,” the spokesperson said. “IPC is hopeful that the administration’s proposal will help expedite the permitting process, allow the power industry [to] efficiently meet the demand for reliable, fair-priced energy, and help support the regional economy.”
A spokesperson for the SunZia project said Oct. 5 that the project will have a length of about 460 miles and have either two AC lines or one AC and one DC line. The expected in-service date is 2015 or 2016.
Typically, the spokesperson added, these types of high-voltage projects can cost between $1m and $2m per mile. SunZia’s final route has not been decided so cost estimates are not available, the spokesperson said, noting that there numerous variables involved, including terrain and final distance.
“We think the announcement is a recognition that strengthening the nation’s transmission system will help create more jobs and opportunities for the delivery of stranded renewable energy resources, particularly in the west,” the spokesperson said.
Similarly, TransWest Express President and CEO Bill Miller said in an Oct. 5 statement that the selection highlights the TransWest project’s importance to the overall grid, its economic and environmental benefits and its ability to create and sustain competitive and cost-effective energy for consumers in California and other states.
PPL Electric Utilities President David DeCampli applauded the administration’s efforts, adding, “We look forward to working cooperatively with the rapid response team – as we have been with the National Park Service – to ensure a thorough and comprehensive review in a timely manner.”
PSE&G President Ralph LaRossa said that as utilities need the ability to make critical system upgrades in a timely manner, the rapid response team is a welcome addition to the federal permitting process.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, these projects will serve as pilot demonstrations of streamlined federal permitting and increased cooperation at the federal, state and tribal levels.
In October 2009, nine federal entities, including the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Department of the Interior and FERC, signed a memorandum of understanding increasing their coordination to expedite and simplify the building of transmission lines on federal lands.
DOE also said that leveraging this collaboration and expanding the scope of activity beyond federal lands, the administration’s recently formed rapid response team for transmission, comprising the same nine agencies, will accelerate deployment of these seven projects by: coordinating statutory permitting, review and consultation schedules and processes among involved agencies; applying a uniform approach to consultations with tribal governments; as well as expeditiously resolving interagency conflicts and ensuring that all involved agencies are fully engaged.
“Transmission is a vital component of our nation’s energy portfolio, and these seven lines, when completed, will serve as important links across our country to increase our power grid’s capacity and reliability,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in the statement.