Southline project scoping period extended to July 5

As a result of numerous requests, the Bureau of Land Management is extended the scoping period for the proposed Southline Transmission Line Project. The scoping period, which was scheduled to end June 4, has been extended to end July 5. Western is a co-lead agency on the environmental impact statement.

The Southline Transmission Project would collect and deliver electricity across southern New Mexico and southern Arizona, relieving congestion, strengthening the existing electrical system and improving transmission access for local renewable and other energy sources.

Learn more about the project on BLM’s webpage.

Customers show interest in Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s wind power

Western received 20 customer responses to a request for interest in the purchase of renewable energy generated by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s proposed 99-megawatt Tate Topa Wind Energy Project located on the tribe’s reservation.

The goal of the request, which closed May 11, was to get interested purchasers and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe talking. “Because it was more about finding out who might be interested, not all 20 requests specified an amount of energy they were interested in purchasing,” explained Public Utilities Specialist Georganne Myers. “However, those that made specific requests totaled approximately 143,000 megawatt-hours annually for contract terms of between 10 and 20 years.”

Delta-Mendota intertie project completed in California

The Bureau of Reclamation held a ribbon-cutting ceremonyfor the recently completed Delta Mendota Canal Intertie project, May 2. Western’s Sierra Nevada region constructed a new transmission line to provide critical project use power.

The new 4.7-mile, 69-kilovolt transmission line near Tracy, Calif., was energized March 14 and powers Reclamation’s pumping plant, which is needed to propel water through the concrete pipes. The line connects to an existing Western 69-kV line in Contra Costa County.

You can read more about the transmission line project or see Reclamation’s news release and photos from the May 2 event.

Web team seeks support for usability review – vote today!

Western’s website is in need of usability testing so that we can “tweak” our website to meet customer needs.

As a Federal agency, every dollar counts and saving visitors time online finding what they need is the primary mission for our web team.  See our video on Challenge.gov seeking assistance from GSA staff asking for their help reviewing our website.

It’s a challenge so popularity is the game and we need more votes before 9 p.m., Eastern time today!

If we win the contest, you—our customer—are guaranteed to see some improvements on our website!

How you can help

Watch our video on Challenge.gov and vote for us. You’ll have to sign up for a Challenge.gov account, but it will only take a few minutes.

Wish us luck!

Western helps explain transmission role at BLM Solar Workshop

Two Western employees participated in the Bureau of Land Management Solar Workshop in Las Vegas Nevada March 6-8, 2012.  BLM put on the workshop to provide information to Bureau of Indian Affairs on developing solar projects on Federal lands.  

These workshops include reviews of BLM environmental impact studies, BLM solar zones, and panels on lessons learned and project sponsor challenges. 

Western Operations Support Specialist John Steward provided an overview of transmission development processes with a focus on solar projects. “It was a great experience to speak at a workshop that provided me the opportunity to educate others on Western’s role as a transmission service provider and a facilitator for interconnections,” said Steward.

Transmission Infrastructure Program Senior Investment Officer Roman Fontes also participated in the BLM workshop. He served on a development panel with other Federal agencies and commercial developers discussing the standards and selection process used to screen projects for viability. “BLM solar workshops are an important forum for exchanging information with BLM, BIA, NREL and industry partners on key development tasks to realize solar projects,” said Fontes. “The panel discussed challenges and lessons learned for commercial developers and including commercial aspects of Purchase Power Agreements and Transmission Service Agreements, and bank and finance requirements.”

 Fontes also conducted a follow up session with BIA participants on commercial and finance structures, negotiations and lease and lease-back arrangements.

Western tribal customers awarded DOE funding for clean energy projects

The Department of Energy announced its next round of tribal energy development projects, Feb. 16.  Of the 19 clean energy projects chosen to receive more than $6.5 million, 10 involve Western tribal customers.

These DOE-selected projects will allow Native American tribes to advance clean energy within their communities by assessing local energy resources, developing renewable energy projects and deploying clean energy technologies. These projects will help tribal communities across the country save money and create new job and business opportunities.

The projects selected for negotiation of award fall into three areas:

  • Feasibility studies – Thirteen projects will receive $3.6 million to assess the technical and economic viability of developing renewable energy resources on tribal lands to generate utility-scale power or installing renewable energy systems to reduce energy use by 30 percent.For example, Western customer White Earth Reservation Tribal Council would use the funding to look at deploying a biogas/biomass-fired combined heat and power facility to generate 2.7 megawatts of electricity for tribal buildings, as well as for space and domestic water heating.
  • Renewable energy development – Four projects, including Western customer Jemez Pueblo’s project, will receive $1.7 million for pre-construction development activities.  Jemez Pueblo plans to use the funding to complete all remaining solar development activities for a 4-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility, which includes acquiring a power purchase agreement, completing site-related project requirements, such as site surveys and lease approval, and finalizing project financing.
  • Installation– Two projects will receive $1.3 million to deploy renewable energy technologies to convert waste and other biomass to energy. One of the two is another Jemez Pueblo project, where the tribe would install a cordwood-fired biomass energy system using locally available wood to heat the tribe’s visitor center. Once installed, the system will provide up to 90 percent of the facility’s heating needs.

See the DOE press release, the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and the project descriptions.

Webinars provide opportunities

DOE and Western have taken a number of steps to support tribal energy development and empower tribal leaders to make informed decisions that promote community economic development.

Western has already held its fourth webinar in partnership with the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and the DOE Tribal Energy Program to promote tribal energy sufficiency. The next event will be March 28 where participants will learn more about interconnection and transmission service queues.

Western customer recognized for including the public in IRP process

Western’s Rocky Mountain Region Manager Brad Warren  presented Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s CEO Ken Anderson an Administrator’s award in recognition of Tri-State’s exceptional energy efficiency and renewable energy contributions.

Tri-State earned this peer-recognition award for going above the standards to engage the public in its Integrated Resource Plan process.

“Tri-State went the extra mile to involve stakeholders, and that was a tremendous effort to undertake,” said Warren.

See the news release for more information.

Enbridge takes up MATL line construction

Renewable Energy Systems Americas employees continue work on the MATL line Jan. 12 near Sweetgrass, Mont. (Photo courtesy of Enbridge)

Taking another step toward bringing renewable energy to market, this month contractors got back to work on the Montana Alberta Tie Limited project.

After receiving a notice to proceed on construction Jan. 10, Renewable Energy Systems Americas employees, hired by Enbridge, got boots on the ground quickly and began remediation work on some existing structures and line near Sweetgrass, Mont.

With 60 percent of the transmission line and substations already completed, Enbridge and RES are continuing to make progress on the line north of Marias River.

Funded partially through Western Area Power Administration’s Transmission Infrastructure Program, Enbridge expects to complete the 214-mile, 230-kilovolt line in 2012.

“Enbridge is committed to quality construction of the line and timely completion of the project,” said Vi Michaelis, Western’s project manager for MATL. “We are very encouraged by the construction restart.”

Once completed, MATL will interconnect the 189-megawatt Rim Rock wind power project, which announced its notice to proceed on construction Jan. 9.

Rim Rock wind project to interconnect through MATL

On Jan. 9, NaturEner announced its plans to construct the Rim Rock wind power project, which will bring 189 megawatts of renewable energy online through the Montana Alberta Tie Limited project.

NaturEner secured a $320 million construction loan with Morgan Stanley Jan. 9, putting the project on track to be commercially operational by the end of 2012. With the MATL line expected to be placed into service in 2012, Rim Rock will have the transmission access it needs to deliver renewable energy.

“The strong financial backing of the U.S. Department of Energy, carried out through Western, has enabled MATL which, together with incentives such as the Production Tax Credit, has allowed Rim Rock to proceed,” added Jose M Sanchez-Seara, CEO of NaturEner. “We greatly appreciate the U.S. Government’s support for renewable energy generation and the transmission lines that allow them to deliver the energy to markets across North America.”

Rim Rock is a 189-MW wind farm project located in Glacier and Toole Counties, Mont., that will consist of 126 Acciona AW-77 1.5 MW turbines. The project area encompasses about 21,000 acres of private land. The project is expected to generate enough energy to power more than 60,000 homes and will offset more than 389,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.

Pick-Sloan finalized 2021 Power Marketing Initiative

Western has a long history of serving and working with customers, including on its power marketing plans. In our Upper Great Plains Region, we’ve followed our current marketing plan since 1985, providing power to firm electric service customers throughout the six-state marketing area. But with the current marketing plan set to expire in nine years, Western’s UGP office took a look at how to market long-term firm hydroelectric resources beyond 2020.

In sum, the 2021 power marketing initiative, finalized Nov. 16 and effective Dec. 16, extended the current Marketing Plan, with amendments to two key marketing plan principles:

  1. Lengthening contract term to 30 years. A 30-year contract term provides firm electric service customers greater resource certainty and cost control compared to the current 20-year contract term. In general, a 30-year contract term strikes a balance between customers’ need for stability in resource planning and cost control and Western’s need for flexibility.
  2. Providing 1-percent resource pools every 10 years. The 2021 PMI will provide for resource pools of up to one percent of the marketable resource under contract at the time for eligible new preference entities beginning Jan. 1, 2021 and again every 10 years, specifically in January 2031 and 2041. The resource pools allow Western to market allocations of firm power to eligible new preference entities, while promoting the most widespread use concept under Federal Reclamation Law.

The 2021 PMI action maintains allocations of the finite hydropower resources at existing allocation levels (reduced by up to one percent for each new resource pool in 2021, 2031 and 2041) for all firm power customers. The PMI was informally discussed with firm power customers last November, then a formal public process was initiated March 4 with the release of the proposed initiative. Western extended the comment period on the initiative to Sept. 6 in response to public comment and request. Read all of Western’s responses to comments received in the Nov. 16, 2011 Federal Register notice (pdf).

What’s next?
 With the power marketing initiative complete, Western intends to begin developing firm electric service contracts with customers for service beyond 2020.