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After 18 Years, Transmission Line Breaks Ground

A transmission line that was stuck in permitting limbo for 18 years finally broke ground Tuesday, E&E News’ ENERGYWIRE (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: “Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm traveled to Wyoming for a ceremony to celebrate work on the 732-mile TransWest Express Transmission project. The line will add 3,000 megawatts of transmission capacity, sending electrons from what is set to be the country’s largest onshore wind project in Wyoming across four states for use in California, Arizona and Nevada.”

A milestone: The project—which was initiated by Arizona Public Service Co. in 2005—is a “‘momentous milestone’” that advances the Biden administration’s objective of constructing 25,000 megawatts of renewable, onshore power sources on public land by 2025, Haaland said.

Permitting reform needed: “It’s a milestone that came after nearly two decades of work, a reminder of how long it can take major grid projects to go through the federal permitting process even as the administration says construction is necessary. Granholm said the Biden administration is committed to making sure future transmission lines don’t face the same roadblocks as TransWest Express.”

  • Because it crosses public and private land in multiple states, the TransWest Express project required green lights from federal, state and county governments, as well as private approvals.
  • Added Granholm, “‘It took way too long to get this permitted.’”

Meeting goals: To meet “projected levels of renewables,” the U.S. will need to expand its high-voltage transmission network by more than 50% in the next 12 years, according to the Department of Energy.

  • “The bipartisan infrastructure law of 2021 included $15.5 billion for DOE to spend on transmission infrastructure. The Biden administration has said future studies will identify key corridors where it can exercise backstop authority to sidestep state opposition to new power line routes.”

What’s next: The $3 billion TransWest Express line is expected to begin construction this year and be fully complete by the end of 2028.

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