The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently reported that adding even limited electricity transmission could significantly reduce the costs of expanding wind energy to supply 35% of U.S. electricity by 2050. Well, the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), a power marketing administration within the DOE, has now issued a record of decision (ROD) to select a route for a project that can help make that happen.
WAPA has issued a ROD to choose a route for the TransWest Express Transmission (TWE) project, a high-voltage, direct-current (HVDC) electric transmission system being developed by TransWest Express LLC. The aim of the project is to directly and efficiently access diverse renewable energy supplies – including from wind-rich southeast Wyoming – while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
According to TransWest, this significant energy infrastructure will strengthen the resiliency and reliability of the western U.S. electric grid by adding 3 GW of “backbone” transmission capacity connecting the Desert Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions.
WAPA’s ROD follows the May 1, 2015, publication of the TWE project’s final environmental impact statement (EIS). According to the developer, the final EIS reflected eight years of environmental analyses, public input and collaboration among 50 federal, state and local cooperating agencies.
WAPA says the new decision will now “enable design and engineering activities to proceed, which are amongst the many customary key technical and commercial considerations that will help WAPA better evaluate its options for participation in or financing of the project.”
The ROD was signed by Mark A. Gabriel, WAPA’s administrator and CEO. A notice of availability of the ROD will be published in the Federal Register.
The WAPA decision follows and aligns with the Dec. 13, 2016, publication of BLM’s ROD, which approved issuing a right-of-way grant for the TWE project infrastructure on BLM-managed land – representing about 60% of the 730-mile route.
The TWE project route extends from south-central Wyoming to the site of a potential interconnection near Delta, Utah, and then to the Marketplace Hub near the Hoover Dam in southern Nevada, which provides interconnections to the California, Nevada and Arizona grids.
“WAPA owns and operates thousands of miles of electric transmission to access and deliver cost-effective energy resources, including the transmission of hydropower from Hoover Dam,” comments Bill Miller, president and CEO of TransWest. “We appreciate having WAPA’s extensive technical and environmental expertise applied to the TWE project analysis and development. The TWE project will provide strong economic benefits and electricity cost savings across the western regional grid for decades.”