Major transmission lines gets first-step approval in Wyoming


Wyoming’s largest utility company, PacifiCorp. won the first step in eventual construction of a 416-mile long transmission line to carry wind-powered electricity to Utah.

The Casper Star Tribune reported that the Carbon County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved this week a recommendation of approving a permit for construction.

PacifiCorp. has proposed building a segment of its high-voltage Gateway South transmission line to deliver power between a substation near Medicine Bow in southeastern Wyoming to a substation in Mona, Utah. The company needs to secure a conditional use permit from Carbon County, in addition to other regulatory bodies, before it can proceed.

Though the planning and zoning commission endorsed the conditional use permit for Rocky Mountain Power’s Gateway South transmission line, the Carbon County Board of Commissioners will need to extend final approval to the project.

The 500-kilovolt line would help Rocky Mountain Power — a division of PacifiCorp in Wyoming — meet increasing demand for energy across the West. It would also strengthen the electricity flow throughout the utility’s service territory, according to the company’s permit application.

“We’re pleased to pass this step in the approval process and look forward to presenting to the Board of Commissioners soon,” Dave Eskelsen, a Rocky Mountain Power spokesman, told the Star-Tribune. Carbon County commissioners will consider the project at its upcoming Sept. 1 meeting.

If the project receives all required county and state approvals, Rocky Mountain Power will launch construction of the overhead, single-circuit line next year, with the goal of bringing it into service by 2024.

About 108 miles of the transmission line will run through Carbon County, and about 34 miles will be routed through Sweetwater County, across a checkerboard of federal, state and private land.

Efforts to secure approval for the project stretch back to 2011, when a public scoping period began for a federal environmental review, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

A final environmental impact statement was completed in 2016.

But the utility still needs a conditional use permit from Carbon County before it can launch construction of the transmission line.

A sister transmission line, known as Gateway West, is already under construction in Wyoming. The 140-mile segment of the transmission line will come into service by the end of this year, according to Rob Fisher of Rocky Mountain Power.

PacifiCorp estimates the Gateway South transmission line will generate $97 million in tax revenue for Wyoming over the project’s life and $508 million in infrastructure investment in the state too. During peak construction, PacifiCorp anticipates needing a workforce of about 230 individuals each month.

An energy project of this scale must submit to several reviews by regulators at all levels of government — from the Bureau of Land Management to county-level planning and zoning commissions.

The state’s Industrial Siting Council will host a hearing on Oct. 21 in Rawlins to consider the utility’s application for a Section 109 permit to construct and operate the project.

In PacifiCorp’s latest integrated resource plan, published in October 2019, the utility announced plans to invest heavily in expanding transmission lines, in tandem with ambitious vision for new renewable energy infrastructure.

The utility company is on track to have this project, along with several others, completed by the end of the year. The myriad developments are part of the utility’s Energy Vision 2020 — a $3.1 billion renewable energy initiative launched in 2017 to increase the utility’s renewable portfolio and save ratepayers costs down the road. By the end of 2020, the utility will have added 1,150 megawatts of new wind resources to the state.

Rocky Mountain Power owns about a dozen wind projects in Wyoming and has several power purchase agreements with companies overseeing a number of additional wind farms in the state. Other wind projects, including TB Flats I and II, Ekola Flats and Cedar Springs, will also come into service this year.

Recently, Rocky Mountain Power fully acquired the state’s first wind facility, Foot Creek in Carbon County, as part of its plan to increase the site’s power capacity by 60 percent. The company’s repowering projects at Dunlap and Foot Creek I facilities are still set to be wrapped up by December too.

Source: Casper Star Tribune