The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, on July 15 issued a draft environmental assessment on the Front Range-Midway Solar LLC interconnection project located in El Paso County, Colorado, on private, county and federally owned lands.
Western, a federal power marketing agency, is the lead federal agency for the project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Front Range-Midway Solar is a private development company and the project proponent. Western is taking comment on the draft EA until Aug. 19.
The purpose of the project is construct, operate and maintain a 100-MW photovoltaic solar facility. The need for the project was established by multiple factors including local, state and federal statues and directives including Colorado’s renewable energy standard (RES) statute. The state of Colorado passed the RES in 2004, which requires electricity providers to obtain a minimum percentage of their power from renewable energy sources.
Midway Solar submitted an interconnection request to Western to connect a proposed 100-MW PV solar facility located south of Fountain, Colorado, in El Paso County to Western’s Midway Substation. The Project Study Area (approximately 1,085 acres) is located between Interstate-25 (I-25) and Fort Carson US Army Installation (Fort Carson), just north of the Midway Landfill, in southern El Paso County. Of the 1,085 acres studied for the proposed project, Midway Solar determined approximately 911 acres would be needed for the development.
Midway Solar would make the connection to the Western substation with a gen-tie transmission line approximately 0.85 mile in length. Midway Solar has also submitted an interconnection request to Xcel Energy’s (NYSE: XEL) Public Service Co. of Colorado (PSCo) subsidiary, which has a substation located adjacent to and east of Western’s Midway Substation. However, in order to connect the proposed project with the PSCo substation, Midway Solar’s gen-tie line to the PSCo substation would likely cross Western-owned land. Crossing Western’s land would require a licensing agreement between Midway Solar and Western. Impacts would likely be similar from either gen-tie line. Impacts described in this EA that would result from the proposed project’s construction, operations, maintenance, or decommissioning, would remain the same regardless of which interconnection is made due to the close proximity of both Western’s and PSCo’s substations.
In order to accommodate Midway Solar’s interconnection request at the Midway Substation, Western would be required to build a new 230-kV bay within the existing Midway Substation fence line including new communications, metering and protection equipment and new take-off and gen-tie structures to direct the 230-kV transmission line into the new bay. Depending on final design, Western may need to alter existing transmission lines entering and exiting the Midway Substation to ensure safe clearances with the proposed 230-kV gen-tie transmission line. Western’s federal action would be limited to the construction of electrical infrastructure associated with the Midway Substation, the operation and maintenance of the substation, and implementation of the interconnection agreement.