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East Vs. West: Growing the Grid

The models and motives behind tomorrow’s transmission expansion.

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2006

First, in September 2005, TransCanada proposed its Northern Lights Transmission Line (see Figure 6) , running southwest from Montana into Idaho, Nevada and California. 10

Then, in October, there was the TransWest Express (see Figure 7) , proposed by Arizona Public Service Co., the utility subsidiary of PinnacleWest, to run from Wyoming through Utah to Arizona, with a possible new link into Southern California via a separate proposal to construct a second parallel line between Palo Verde and the Devers substation. 11

When interviewed for this article, WIA executive director Steve Waddington said that the Frontier sponsors had not yet come up with a proposed route, but said that the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO) was doing some scoping work and putting together some ideas.

When asked who grants final certification authority for such a large project, however, Waddington admitted a bit of a conundrum: “We don’t have RTOs to conduct all those studies. Instead, the four states will have to play a huge role in the permitting and cost review.”

Waddington conceded that TransWest, with its “anchor tenant,” was probably a little bit ahead of Frontier. Yet he remains optimistic on Frontier: “The TransWest footprint is somewhat different than the Frontier concept, but this is not a horse race. The two lines are compatible, and we see a lot of potential for TransWest and Frontier to coordinate their efforts.

“And as for Frontier, stay tuned for utility partners.”

Indeed, TransWest does appear much farther along. Last November, Pinnacle West included route maps and some technical analysis in an 11-page notice of intent filed with the U.S. Department of Energy (Office of Electricity Delivery Reliability) to participate in the DOE’s efforts to prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement” in tandem with DOE’s program to designate “National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors” on federal lands, throughout the West, as required by the Sec. 368 of the EPACT 2005 legislation. 12

Bob Smith, manager of transmission planning for Arizona Public Service, told the Fortnightly, “We are running an open stakeholder process, but we will need partners to build this project, and we are probably looking at 2 AC circuits. We included [TransWest] in an update to our 10-year transmission plan filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission [the state PUC]. During the next year we will assemble a consortium. At APS we will probably lead the cost-benefit analysis. But it’s still to be determined as to what each owner would have to do within their own service territories.”

When asked about the purpose of the line, Smith said that APS owned no generation resources in the Wyoming area, but added, “One view is that if renewable resources can be developed in Arizona, so much the better. But I’ll tell you, the wind is much better in Wyoming than Arizona.”

And would Frontier, TransWest, and Northern Lights have to fight amongst each other to obtain exclusive certification rights? Smith thought not.

“In my mind,” he predicted, “there’s no doubt that all these projects will come together. “It’s difficult to believe that we can overbuild transmission out