Feds approve energy transmission line that will run through Colorado

Matt Whittaker

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Wind turbines in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, in May 2012.Tony Webster/Flickr

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver

(Moffat County, Colo.) The White House on Thursday said it gave the greenlight for construction of a 416-mile electricity transmission line that will run through northwestern Colorado and could increase power reliability in the state even though it won't directly serve households or businesses here.

As part of the Biden administration's goal of permitting at least 25 gigawatts of solar, wind and geothermal power production on public lands by 2025, the Bureau of Land Management issued the final approval for Oregon-based utility PacifiCorp to start building the Energy Gateway South Transmission line.

Part of a larger PacifiCorp project that will add about 2,000 miles of new transmission lines across the West, the 500-kilovolt, overhead line will run from a substation near Medicine Bow, Wyoming, through Moffat and Rio Blanco counties in Colorado and end at a substation near Mona, Utah.

PacifiCorp expects construction to start in June on the south transmission line and to have it in service by late 2024, spokeswoman Tiffany Erickson said. Building the transmission line will support about 1,325 construction jobs and help integrate up to 2,000 megawatts of new renewable energy resources, the bureau said.

"While no direct interconnections are planned for Gateway South in Colorado, expansion of the regional transmission grid has reliability benefits to the 11-state western regional grid, of which Colorado is part," Erickson said.

The largest grid operator in the western United States, PacificCorp serves 2 million customers in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. Its power generating assets include co-owned coal plants in Colorado that are in the process of closing, as well as natural gas, hydroelectric, wind, solar and geothermal facilities. Ten of its wind farms are in Wyoming.

"The Gateway South project will allow PacifiCorp customers to benefit from an interconnected West by enabling access to current and future renewable resources in southeastern Wyoming," Erickson said. "This will benefit our customers with lower-cost energy and improved reliability by allowing even more low-cost energy to flow to and from Wyoming and other states in the West."

Last year, 25 percent of PacifiCorp's electricity generation mix came from wind and 11 percent from solar. By 2030, the company plans to expand wind generation to 33 percent and solar to 25 percent.

Vijay Satyal, Boulder-headquartered Western Resource Advocates' regional energy markets manager, is optimistic about the new line's potential for cleaner electricity generation in the West.

"We feel this should enhance PacificCorp's ability to bring on clean energy resources, more renewables, more low cost solar and wind," he said.

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Matt Whittaker writes about natural resources industries, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, agriculture and cannabis. He's been based in the Denver metro area since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @mattswhittaker.

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