This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

October 26, 2005

New Transmission Line Projects Could Benefit Wind Power

Western utilities hungry for new power sources are exploring new or upgraded transmission lines, a trend that could benefit the growth of wind power in the region. Trans-Elect, Inc., the Western Area Power Administration, and the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority joined forces in late September to upgrade a transmission line that crosses the border between northeastern Colorado and eastern Wyoming. The American Wind Energy Association supports the project because it will help deliver Colorado and Wyoming wind power to customers along Colorado's urban Front Range. On October 21st, Arizona Public Service Company (APS) announced it will explore building two 500-kilovolt transmission lines from Wyoming to Arizona. While the new transmission lines would help deliver power from Wyoming coal plants to Arizona, the lines could also encourage wind power growth in Wyoming. See the press releases from the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority and APS.

Wyoming is the largest U.S. producer of coal and is the main source of low-sulfur coal, which burns cleaner and helps coal plants meet their emissions requirements. Wyoming and neighboring states also have excellent wind power resources, creating a synergy between the two power sources. A case in point is a proposed coal plant called Big Stone II, which would be located in Big Stone, South Dakota. To garner support, the project participants recently committed to building a larger-than-needed transmission line for the plant: a 345-kilovolt transmission line from Big Stone to Granite Falls, Minnesota, instead of the 230-kilovolt line originally planned. The companies say the excess capacity could accommodate up to 1,000 megawatts of wind power, allowing large wind projects in wind-rich South Dakota to supply growing power needs in Minnesota. See the Otter Tail Power Company press release.

The importance of long-distance power transmission has led DOE, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management to propose designating "energy corridors" for power transmission and other purposes on federal lands in the West. Starting on October 25th, the agencies began holding public comment sessions in cities throughout the West. See the DOE press release and the West-wide Energy Corridor Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Web site.