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Good for Wind: Administration Fast-tracks Transmission Projects

In a move that stands to enable more wind development sooner, this week Obama administration officials announced seven transmission priority projects that will be placed on a regulatory fast track, under the "Rapid Response Transmission Team" (RRTT) coordinated inter-agency approach to accelerate the permitting process for transmission projects.

The news marks another phase in a federal transmission siting and coordination effort stemming from a 2009 memorandum of understanding entered into by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Commerce, Defense, and the Interior. Five of the projects are in the Western U.S.; two are in the East. Six of the seven are interstate projects. In total, the projects will have a capacity of nearly 5,000 MW.

“AWEA applauds the Obama administration for taking steps to move from merely talking about transmission to actually getting projects permitted and under construction,” Tom Vinson, AWEA senior director of federal regulatory affairs, said in a statement. “An expanded transmission grid is critical not just for renewable energy, but also for our economic and national security by improving reliability and providing access to lower cost energy for consumers.”

The RRTT, made up of representatives from the same nine agencies that signed the 2009 MOU, will now identify the agencies that will be needed for each project in order to coordinate permitting and related planning processes.

“Building a smarter electric grid will create thousands of American jobs and accelerate the growth of domestic clean energy industries, translating into more energy choices and cost savings for American consumers, and a more secure energy future for our country,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House-based Council on Environmental Quality.

The selected projects are:

  • Idaho Power’s proposed 500-kilovolt power line that will run 300 miles from Oregon to Idaho;
  • Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power’s 1,150 miles of high-voltage lines across Wyoming and Idaho;
  • Xcel Energy and partners’ 345-kilovolt CapX2020 line that will run from Minnesota to Wisconsin;
  • Portland General Electric’s proposed Cascade Crossing Transmission Project, a 210-mile, 500-kilovolt line in Oregon;
  • SunZia Transmission LLC’s two 500-kilovolt transmission lines in Arizona and New Mexico;
  • TransWest Express LLC’s 700-mile, 600-kilovolt transmission line in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada; and
  • PPL Electric Utilities and Public Service Electric and Gas Co.’s 145-mile, 500-kilovolt Susquehanna to Roseland Line in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Carl Levesque is the Communications Editor at AWEA. This article first appeared in the AWEA Windletter and was reprinted with permission from the American Wind Energy Association.

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