Rocky Mountain Power seeks approval in Idaho for wind, transmission projects

Rocky Mountain Power recently filed an application with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission for an order granting certificates of public convenience and necessity (CPCNs) to build, or approval to acquire, four new Wyoming wind resources with a total capacity of 860 MW (collectively referred to as the wind projects).

The company, a division of PacifiCorp, said that it also requests CPCNs for these transmission facilities (collectively referred to as the transmission projects), significant portions of which are associated with the company’s Energy Gateway West transmission project:

  • The 140-mile, Aeolus-to-Anticline 500-kV line, which includes construction of the new Aeolus and Anticline substations
  • The five-mile Anticline-to-Jim Bridger 345-kV line, which includes modifications at the existing Jim Bridger substation to allow termination of the new 345-kV line
  • Installation of a voltage control device at the Latham substation
  • A new 16-mile, 230-kV transmission line parallel to an existing 230-kV line from the Shirley Basin substation to the proposed Aeolus substation, including modifications to the existing Shirley Basin substation
  • The reconstruction of four miles of an existing 230-kV transmission line between the proposed Aeolus substation and the Freezeout substation, including modifications as required at the Freezeout substation
  • The reconstruction of 14 miles of an existing 230-kV transmission line between the Freezeout substation and the Standpipe substation, including modifications as required at the Freezeout and Standpipe substations

The first three items listed are collectively referred to as the Aeolous-to-Bridger/Anticline Line; the last three items are collectively referred to as the 230-kV network upgrades; and the transmission projects and the wind projects are collectively referred to as the combined projects, the company noted in its application, which the commission received on July 3.

Rocky Mountain Power said that the combined projects present a time-limited opportunity to obtain cost-effective generation and build the necessary transmission facilities with minimal impact on customer rates.

The transmission projects are necessary to relieve existing congestion and would enable interconnection of the proposed wind projects into the company’s transmission system, the company said, adding that the wind projects produce zero-fuel-cost energy and federal production tax credits (PTC), which provide significant economic benefits for customers when combined with the transmission projects.

The combined projects are time-sensitive because they must be in commercial operation by the end of 2020 to fully achieve the PTC benefits, the company said, adding that it requests that the commission issue the requested CPCNs by March 30, 2018.

To support the critical-path schedule of the transmission projects, the company said that the CPCN process must run concurrently with the company’s “2017R RFP” process for wind facilities.

The wind projects will be submitted into the 2017R RFP as company benchmark resources, Rocky Mountain Power said, adding that if those resources are not selected in the 2017R RFP, then they will be replaced by an economically superior resource.

The company noted that it anticipates issuing its 2017R RFP to the market in August, and expects to identify the winning bids in January 2018.

The company said that it expects to execute engineering, procurement, and construction contracts for the wind projects in April 2018. The equipment contracts for the wind projects are expected to be executed in May 2019, and construction is expected to begin in June 2019, the company said.  

The 2017R RFP will seek the acquisition of up to about 1,270 MW of new wind resources capable of interconnecting to, or delivering energy and capacity across, the company’s transmission system in Wyoming, the company said.

In this application, the company said that it requests CPCNs for the four wind projects, which are comprised of three nominal 250-MW facilities – referred to as Ekola Flats, TB Flats I, and TB Flats II – and a fourth nominal 110-MW facility – McFadden Ridge II – all located in Wyoming.

For each of those facilities, the company said that it either has control over the site, or has secured access to the development and implementation rights.

The transmission projects would increase transfer capability out of eastern Wyoming; provide critical voltage support to the transmission system in southeastern Wyoming; and increase reliability, relieve congestion, reduce capacity and energy losses on the transmission system, as well as provide greater flexibility managing existing generation resources, the company said.

As of the filing of this application, Rocky Mountain Power said that it has obtained a federal right of way (ROW) permit from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the portion of the Aeolus-to-Anticline line that crosses BLM lands, which covers about half of the 140 miles. The company said that once CPCNs have been issued by the commission, as well as by the Wyoming Public Service Commission, it will obtain the additional ROWs and state and local permits necessary to build the transmission projects.

The company noted that it expects to provide a limited notice-to-proceed for the transmission projects by the end of 2018, to acquire the necessary ROWs by March 30, 2019. The final notice-to-proceed for the transmission projects is expected to be issued by April 1, 2019, to initiate construction, the company said.

Rocky Mountain Power said that it expects the combined projects to become commercially operational by Dec. 31, 2020.

The company said that it also requests approval of its proposal for binding ratemaking treatment for the investment in the combined projects, noting that the ratemaking proposal – known as the Resource Tracking Mechanism (RTM) – is designed to capture customer benefits resulting from the combined projects and match those benefits with the costs of the combined projects.

The RTM, which would operate until the costs and benefits of the combined projects are fully included in base rates, would be included as a component of the Energy Cost Adjustment Mechanism (ECAM), the company said.

The company said that it recommends that the full costs and benefits of the new wind and transmission facilities flow through its ECAM until the costs of the new facilities are reflected in the company’s base rates.

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.