- Two major transmission lines in the West nailed down final federal approval earlier this week, Deseret News reports.
- The 730-mile TransWest Express Project and the 416-mile Energy Gateway South project would link up western states such as Wyoming and Utah to California, Arizona and Nevada. Both transmission projects have been locked in federal review processes and debate over impacts to wildlife.
- Combined, both transmission lines can ship 4,500 MW of renewable power in the West, Southwest and California markets.
As renewable energy penetrations rise, utilities and grid operators alike say new transmission is sorely needed to allow the new resources to access demand centers.
To meet state renewable energy mandates alone, the Brattle Group estimates $25-$40 billion of transmission investment will be needed by 2025. If the Clean Power Plan somehow survives the Trump administration, that figure could rise to $60 billion.
But transmission lines are notoriously difficult to build out, subject to lengthy reviews and pushback from environmental advocates and landowners.
Both the TransWest and Gateway South lines have spent years in review, Deseret News notes, but federal approval this week constitutes a significant milestone for the projects.
The 3,000 MW TransWest Express Project, which flows through most of Utah, ploughed through the 8-year environmental review process for the Bureau of Land Management. Once completed, wind developers can ship Wyoming wind energy to California and other Southwest markets. Its capacity could power 1.8 million homes.
The 1,500 MW Energy Gateway South project, developed by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary PacifiCorp, will begin in Wyoming as well and finish in Mona, Utah.
Not everyone was pleased with the approvals. The Wilderness Society said in a statement the lines would destroy valuable wildlife habitat and that "[r]eadily available alternative routes could have minimized or eliminated these impacts by following highways and designated utility corridors," according to the AP.