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Green power transmission project moves forward

Source: 
Uintah Basin Standard

A transmission project that will deliver power generated at Wyoming wind farms through the Uinta Basin to California is entering the property acquisition phase. Construction is expected to begin next year.

The project, developed by Transwest Express LLC, a Denver-based independent power developer, is driven by western states with renewable portfolio standards (RPS). A RPS requires states to acquire a percentage of their power from renewable sources. All of the western states except Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Alaska, have a RPS in place. California requires 44 percent renewable generation by 2024 and 100 percent by 2045.

Transwest officials will present at a public meeting at 6:15 p.m. September 3 in Ballard. The company is asking the city's planning and zoning commission for a permit to cross 2.2 miles of city property with a 250-foot wide easement and to install tubular or steel lattice towers as high as 180-feet.

The project begins near Rawlins, Wyoming, heads south through the northwest corner of Colorado bending around Dinosaur National Monument, then due west following Highway 40 to near Fruitland, then southwest through Wasatch and Utah counties, crossing Interstate 15 near Nephi then roughly following the path of I-15, terminating at a substation near Las Vegas, Nevada.

In Utah it travels 390 miles with 149 of those miles crossing private land. Another 30 miles cross state and municipal land while the majority of the project is on federal land at 211 miles total.

About 400 private landowners are affected along the entire length of the project. The company will negotiate purchase agreements with those landowners. If the two parties can't come to terms, the company has the authority of eminent domain to condemn the property. Landowners who agree to terms with the company are required to sign a confidentiality agreement protecting the terms of the sale. This is a common practice used in acquiring easements for infrastructure projects.

Transwest Director of Communications Kara Choquette said the project got underway in 2008 and wrapped up the federal environmental review process in 2016. All of the states and counties in the path must issue some form of permit before the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will issue a notice to proceed with construction.

"Our intent is two-fold," Choquette said. "We want to deliver renewable energy we have in place in Utah and Wyoming and strengthen the western grid's overall transmission capabilities."

She said the power market is changing and consumers in most western states have elected legislators who believe in moving more toward renewable generation sources.

Dave Eskelsen, spokesman for Pacificorp echoed those sentiments. He said Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of Pacificorp, is seeing growth in solar generation from third party companies. Natural gas and coal generate about 55 percent of the utility's overall output but recent growth all points toward renewables.

Power from green sources including hydro, biomass, solar and wind now account for about 25 percent of Pacificorp's power generation.

Choquette said the Transwest transmission project is a $1.3 billion investment in Utah that will generate $477 million in property taxes annually and about $47 million in Utah sales tax over the three years of construction.

"It's been a long time since this project got underway and we've had great support for it in Utah over the years," she said.

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