Late last week, federal agencies announced the long-awaited arrival of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the TransWest Express Transmission Project — a major multi-state transmission project aimed at increasing grid integrity and renewable energy integration in Wyoming and the Southwest.
Co-authored by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Western Area Power Administration (Western), the draft EIS represents the culmination of several years of environmental analyses, public comments, and inter-agency planning. Once completed, the project is expected to transmit about 3,000 MW (enough to power almost 1 million homes), cost about $3 billion, and stretch 725 miles through Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. From now through September, BLM and Western will hold stakeholder meetings throughout the project area, and solicit comments or suggestions to include in the final EIS prior to beginning the year-long construction process sometime in 2014.
A main project objective is to connect Wyoming’s wind energy resources — such as the 1,000 turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project currently under construction — to Las Vegas and Southern California energy consumers. In addition, proponents point out that having the extra grid capacity will alleviate congestion constraints all across the West’s transmission system. However, environmentalists are concerned that the proposed route would run right through important habitats for the sage grouse in Wyoming and Utah, and the desert tortoise in Nevada. To be sure, although the TransWest project is ambitious in both its size, capacity, and jurisdictional cross-over, most of the planning process has been devoted to the kinds of environmental analyses and alternatives considerations that would address these wildlife concerns.
Time will tell when construction will commence, and what the ultimate transmission route will look like, but one thing is clear, with the Draft EIS out of the way, TransWest cleared its most significant and cumbersome hurdle.
For more info:
U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, TransWest Express Transmission Line Project, http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/hdd/transwest.html
The Winderness Society, TransWest Express Transmission, wilderness.org/article/transwest-express-transmission
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