Lucky Corridor expects the estimated cost for its proposed merchant transmission line in northern New Mexico to decline from the current estimate of $350m, President and CEO Lynn Greene told TransmissionHub May 16.
The project is still in the civil engineering stage, Greene said. “The further you get along in civil engineering and the more precisely people can estimate costs, the more they tend to go down,” she said.
Lucky Corridor is completing tower and foundation studies and conducting geotechnical studies, she said.
Lucky Corridor, a single-purpose entity, on May 15 said it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to explore the potential joint development of the 93-mile, double-circuit 230-kV project. The project would allow 1,100 MW of bi-directional capacity, expand two substations, Taos and Black Lake, and require the construction of two new 230-kV substations, Springer and Gladstone.
The project will enable the development of more than 850 MW of gas, solar and wind generation.
The preferred route for the project would follow an existing 115-kV line owned by Tri-State between Taos and Farley, N.M. Land acquisition for the route would be minimal, requiring an easement through less than 600 acres of land, Greene said.
For the 20 miles that the project would cross federal lands, the right-of-way would not be widened, she said.
Lucky Corridor studied seven possible routes, Greene said. “We concluded the route we’re trying to take is the best route, where we use the existing corridor,” she said. Some alternate routes do not cross federal lands, she said.
NEPA will ultimately choose the route, she said. “The proposed route we think will end up being the final route.”
The Lucky Corridor project will move electricity to market and address reliability issues. “A lot of merchant transmission projects have nothing to do with improving reliability but ours does,” Greene said. The eastern part of the Western Interconnection is weak, she said, as infrastructure has developed closer to load centers, which in the Western Interconnection are on the coast.
“We found a place where we can fix the problem that has impacted the entire eastern part of the western grid,” Greene said. “As a side benefit of that, we will be able to move 850 MW of clean energy to the Four Corners,” a NYMEX hub.
The project will also make available for lease 44 of the 48 strands of dark fiber that will be installed. These strands will be able to be used to improve telecom service in the area, Greene said.
Equity investors in the project are ranchers in New Mexico and Colorado, who wanted to develop the wind resources in the region, Greene said. Debt financing will come from WAPA and the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, with which Lucky Corridor has also signed an MOU.