Solar receives transmission boost in the West

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U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced two transmission lines last week that will carry up to 4.5 GW of renewable power throughout the Western United States.

One transmission line — the 416-mile Energy Gateway South line‚ will cross 228 miles of public land administered by Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. It will carry up to 1.5 GW of electricity at its peak. A second, 728-mile line called TransWest Express, will traverse 442 miles of BLM public land from south-central Wyoming to southern Nevada and will carry up to 3 GW — enough energy to power up to 1.8 million homes.

BLM sited the projects in consultation with the states involved to avoid as much unnecessary disruption of wildlife habitats through specific design features and compensatory mitigation.

To reduce ground disturbances and unsightly visual effects, both TransWest and Energy Gateway are being built alongside existing transmission lines and roads. The two lines will create approximately 2,3000 construction jobs in the affected states.

For the past eight years, the Interior Department has worked with state and local leaders to tap the West’s wealth of renewable energy resources, including the approval of 60 utility-scale projects, including 36 solar projects.

All together, the projects represent $40 billion in potential private capital investments that could generate more than 15.5 GW of electricity – enough to power approximately five million homes across the West.

But without transmission lines to get the electricity to people who need it, the investment in renewable energy would remain largely moot. The Interior Department has approved 54 such projects, spanning 4,200 miles, to help unlock renewable resources currently unavailable because of a lack of sufficient infrastructure investments.

According to its website, the BLM manages more than 19 million acres of public lands with solar energy potential in six states: California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

Route maps are available:

TransWest Express

Energy Gateway South