DATC, Clean Line Energy execs update projects at TransForum West

Transmission development is a long-term effort and delays and changes in the landscape are common and much to be expected, Andy Cotter, project manager, Duke-American Transmission Co.’s (DATC) Zephyr Power Transmission Project, said on May 6 at TransmissionHub’s TransForum West held in Denver.

“[S]o, we are in this project for the long haul,” Cotter said during the panel titled, “Large transmission projects in the West.”

He noted that the Zephyr project “is earlier in the life cycle than” the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project and TransWest Express LLC’s TransWest Express Transmission Project.

As TransmissionHub reported, TransWest Express and SunZia executives also provided updates on their projects during the panel session.

The Zephyr project is a 500-kV HVDC transmission line “bringing renewable energy from eastern Wyoming to the Southwest,” Cotter said.

According to his presentation, the line would run 500 to 850 miles, and have capacity of 2,100 to 3,000 MW.

“We have done preliminary routing and pre-NEPA work, as the [Bureau of Land Management (BLM)] instructed us to call it,” he said, noting that DATC has done outreach to land managing agencies, as well as local outreach at the county and state levels. DATC has also met with local landowners and stakeholders.

DATC has not pushed into the NEPA process because the project’s anchor shipper, Pathfinder Wind is doing commercial negotiation with potential offtakers for the wind power, he said.

“[W]e’re targeting the post-2020 period for commercial operation, looking at potentially 2023,” for the Zephyr project, he said.

Cotter also discussed the compressed air energy storage development matter announced last September.

As PennWell’s GenerationHub reported, four companies – DATC, along with Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, Magnum Energy and Dresser-Rand – last September jointly proposed a first-in-the-U.S., $8bn green energy initiative that would bring large amounts of clean electricity to the Los Angeles area by 2023.

The project would require construction of one of America’s largest wind farms in Wyoming, one of the world’s biggest energy storage facilities in Utah, and a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting the two sites.

Linking the wind farm to the energy storage facility would enable the wind farm to function largely like a traditional coal, nuclear or natural gas power plant – capable of reliably delivering large amounts of electricity whenever needed, based on customer demand. The energy storage facility also would reduce the need for L.A.-area utilities to build expensive backup power plants and power lines to serve customers on days when there is no wind, at night when there is no sunlight, and during other periods when traditional wind and solar farms are unable to produce electricity.

Components of the proposed project include:

  • Wind farm  Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy would build, own and operate the $4bn wind farm – located near Chugwater, Wyo., 40 miles north of Cheyenne – which would generate 2,100 MW.
  • Energy storage facility  Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, Magnum Energy and Dresser-Rand would install the $1.5bn “compressed air energy storage” system at a site near Delta, Utah, 130 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Four vertical caverns – carved out of an underground salt formation at the site – would be key components of the storage system. The four caverns combined would store the energy equivalent of 60,000 MWh of electricity. During periods of low customer demand, the storage facility would use excess electricity from the Pathfinder wind farm to compress and inject high-pressure air into the caverns for storage. During periods of high customer demand, the facility would use the stored, high-pressure compressed air, combined with a small amount of natural gas, to power eight generators to produce electricity.

Cotter said on May 6 of the energy storage component: “That possibility shows that large storage can play a successful role in integrating renewables across the West. That’s one of the key concerns that grid operators have, is the intermittent nature of renewable energy and while that’s been tackled and addressed with varying degrees of success across the U.S., this compressed air energy storage would allow for … 1,200 MW capacity to be stored and dispatchable, so you use it when you need it and store it when you don’t.”

Next steps for the Zephyr project, according to his presentation, include preparing federal, state and local right of way (ROW) permit applications.

Clean Line Energy

Also speaking on the panel, Keith Sparks, director of development, Clean Line Energy Partners, provided an update on the company’s transmission projects, including the Centennial West Clean Line project.

According to the company’s websitethe Centennial West project will deliver 3,500 MW of renewable energy from New Mexico and Arizona to communities in California and other areas in the West that have a strong demand for clean and reliable energy. The clean energy will be transported via an approximately 900-mile overhead, direct current (DC) transmission line. Due to its low electricity losses and smaller footprint, DC transmission is the most efficient and cost effective technology to move large amounts of electricity over long distances, the company added.

“We have delayed this project, quite frankly, for lack of a better term, because of … uncertain market signals … from the state of California,” Sparks said on May 6. “They’re going through market design [and] they’re trying to figure out how much out-of-state renewables is necessary to satisfy their greenhouse gas emissions [requirements] and satisfy the pending 50% [renewable portfolio standard (RPS)] threshold.”

In his Jan. 5 inaugural address, California Gov. Edmund Brown Jr., proposed certain goals to be accomplished within the next 15 years, including to increase from one-third to 50% the state’s electricity derived from renewable sources.

“We’re confident that California needs to do that,” Sparks said, adding, “We want strong, unmistakable signals from the state of California that they need out-of-state resources.”

He also noted the “very constructive relationship” between the company and the Western Area Power Administration (Western), saying: “They’ve been very patient with us.” He noted that when the company began the NEPA process in 2010, and then suspended it in 2012, “Western was very gracious in working with us and has been for several years now.”

Discussing the project’s timeline, he said that as of now, the company expects commercial operation to occur in 2022.
“We’ll see whether or not that comes to fruition,” he said.

According to his presentation, key milestones for the project include that the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) project coordination review, as it pertains to interconnection, has been completed.

Also, the project has an executed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA). RETA, the presentation added, is authorized by statute to acquire land for the project and own transmission facilities.

Also, a development agreement has been finalized with Western.

In terms of outreach, the presentation noted that the company has held 18 community leader workshops in four states and two tribal nations to gather information about local routing opportunities and constraints.

Of the Western Spirit Clean Line project, Sparks noted that the company has requested New Mexico Public Service transmission service, as well as Arizona Public Service transmission service, from Four Corners to the California ISO (Cal-ISO).

According to the company’s website, the Western Spirit project will collect 1,500 MW of renewable power from central New Mexico and deliver the power to markets in the western United States that have a strong demand for clean and reliable energy. The clean energy will be transported via an approximately 200-mile transmission line, complementing the efforts of the Centennial West project, the company said.

As noted in Sparks’ presentation, regarding environmental and routing matters, the company has developed preliminary routes and initiated ROW acquisition.

“[W]e’re very close to getting them all done and it just takes a lot of patience and a lot of perseverance, but I’m confident that we’ll be well positioned once we do that,” Sparks said.

He also discussed Clean Line Energy’s other transmission projects that are underway, including the company’s “highest profile project,” the Plains & Eastern Project.

As TransmissionHub reported, four East Texas cooperatives have signed an agreement with Clean Line Energy that provides the cooperatives with an option to own up to 50 MW of capacity on the Plains & Eastern project and a portion of the project’s assets.

The estimated $2bn, 700-mile HVDC line, which would have end points in the Oklahoma Panhandle and in western Tennessee, is designed to deliver more than 3,500 MW of wind power from the Oklahoma Panhandle region to Arkansas, Tennessee, and other markets in the Mid-South and Southeast U.S.

Sparks noted that Clean Line Energy is funded by several institutional investors, including National Grid, which brings “considerable technical expertise in high voltage direct current technology.”

Among other things, he said that the cost of wind energy resources “are getting cheaper and cheaper,” adding, “[W]e are approaching 2 cents per kWh for [power purchase agreement (PPA)] in wind in the interior part of the United States.”

As noted in his presentation, the “interior” region consists of the 13 states where the wind resource is the strongest, including Oklahoma and Texas.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.