Environmental review and analysis of transmission line projects is an iterative process. A project is proposed; the proposal is reviewed; alternatives are developed; comments are solicited and considered; revisions are made. Then the process repeats.
The Southline Transmission Line Project provides a great example. The Bureau of Land Management New Mexico and Western are co-lead agencies preparing the environmental impact statement for the project. The BLM recently completed meetings with Federal, state and county agencies as part of the process of developing alternatives for the project.
These meetings were an opportunity for the agencies to review the preliminary alternative routes being considered by the BLM and Western for the project and identify concerns and issues with any of the alternative routes. Input from the agencies will be included in the final alternatives development report and keeps the environmental analysis moving forward on schedule.
The BLM and Western expect to complete a draft EIS later this year. That’s when the public will have a chance to review and comment on the draft EIS. Those comments will then be considered as the agencies develop a final EIS.
Have you ever wanted to know more about the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, process and how Federal agencies analyze projects? Here’s a chart that shows the steps in the process. You can also learn more in the NEPA section of the Department of Energy’s website.
In a spontaneous visit to Colorado Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman made a quick stop by Western’s Corporate Services Office in Lakewood, Sept. 14, sandwiched between two other meetings in the area.
Opening with “I’m not really hear to talk; I’m here to answer any questions you have on your mind,” Poneman said in his video conference with several hundred Western employees. Read more »
Rim Rock wind turbine owned and operated by NaturEner (Photo provided by NaturEner website)
Hundreds of people attended NaturEner’s opening ceremony Sept. 14 for the Rim Rock wind farm just north of Cut Bank, Mont., to celebrate overcoming the considerable challenges in making the wind farm a reality.
“There was a time last summer when we were doubtful we were going to be able to pull this off,” said Greg Copeland, Development Director of the U.S. division of the Spanish-owned NaturEner. Read more »
The Bureau of Land Management recently released the scoping summary report for the proposed Southline Transmission Line project, ending the 90-day scoping period for the project environmental impact statement.
BLM and Western, as joint lead agencies in the preparation of the EIS, held six open houses in New Mexico and Arizona in May during the scoping phase. The scoping phase gives the public the opportunity to learn about a proposed project, share concerns and provide comments on what potential impacts should be analyzed in the draft EIS expected in 2013.
Major concerns discovered during the scoping process included the NEPA process and BLM’s management plan amendment, wildlife impacts and socioeconomic impacts.
Southline Transmission, LLC, proposes to construct, operate and maintain a 360-mile, high-voltage power line from Afton, N.M., to Saguaro substation northwest of Tucson, Ariz. About 240 miles would be new construction of a 345-kilovolt line on mostly BLM land while the rest would be an upgrade to an existing Western line. If completed, the line will add 1,000 megawatts of transmission capacity to the southwest.
On July 31, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the delay of a project to relocate Western’s high-voltage transmission lines near Yellowtail Dam in Montana from August to October because of increased environmental concerns.
“I applaud our hydropower partners at Western for their sensitivity to the potential ramifications of the outage associated with the relocation project,” said Dan Jewell, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Montana Area Office. “While these types of maintenance events are never risk-free, delaying the work until later in the year will help reduce that risk.”
The current location of the lines puts them at risk for the dangerous ice storms that occur in the area over winter, prompting a joint effort between Reclamation and Western to move the lines.
The relocation is scheduled to take about two weeks, and the outage requires Reclamation to bypass the water turbines. With the unusually warm summer and fall, agencies and environmentalists were concerned about the impact of not using the colder water at deeper water levels to power the turbines in August. Alternatives to move the water, including the holo-jets and spillways, could increase nitrogen or water temperature, potentially harming fish.
According to Friends of the Bighorn River blog, “With lake water temperatures already well into the 70′s, a slight mistake, miscalculation or unplanned natural or man-made event could have long lasting, devastating effects on the river where fish are already highly stressed from anglers, low flows, gas bubble trauma, irrigation return, warm water and habitat loss.”
The delay is thought to be a fitting compromise to ensure reliable electricity from Yellowtail Dam this winter and protection of the environment.
Western and DOE are hosting a webinar to kick off the public involvement and stakeholder process in our “Defining the Future” Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to achieve a more secure and sustainable electric sector in the United States.
Already Western has publicized it’s progress toward the objectives in Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu’s memo to the power marketing administrations.
Now during the webinar, participants can see the workshop and listening session formats, directions on how to access read-ahead material, a preview of information that will be presented during the workshops and a summary of the process for stakeholder participation during workshops and listening sessions.
So join us for:
Pre-workshop Webinar: “Defining the Future” Initiative
Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 1 p.m. (EDT)
Register for the webinar online
Western recently published new webpages to publicize progress toward the objectives in Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu’s March 16 memo to the power marketing administrations.
The webpages advertise public involvement opportunities, including stakeholder meetings, and show how Western is progressing toward meeting the memo’s objectives.
While Western calls the section “Defining the future,” the agency remains committed to providing reliable, cost-based electric service to its preference power customers. The objectives in the PMA memo only call for Western’s leadership in “transforming our electric system to the 21st century to ensure our nation remains competitive in a global economy,” as Secretary Chu stated in his May 30 blog post.
“[Western] has an enormous opportunity to assume a leadership role in helping prevent future blackouts by making the organizational and operational changes necessary to enhance overall system operations and planning,” he added.
Be sure to check out the pages regularly as they will be frequently updated with more information through the end of the year.
Western Area Power Administration, the U.S. DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and the DOE Tribal Energy Program are offering a free, informative webinar and discussion May 30 on how utilities’ generation portfolios are changing, often faster than the grid infrastructure that supports it, and the challenges currently being faced to integrate new generation and demand (load) response technologies into a grid that was designed to operate a different way.
There is no charge to attend the webinar; however, you must register to participate.
Tribal utility managers and resource engineers will hear information on (1) key findings in the MIT Energy Initiative Report on the changes needed in the U.S. transmission grid to handle expected challenges such as the influx of electric cars and wind and solar generation and (2) the Western Grid Group’s Clean Energy Vision Project, which charts a sustained, orderly transition from the carbon intensive electricity system of today to a cleaner, smarter and healthier electricity system of the future.
The webinar is chaired by Jay Caspary, with Southwest Power Pool and on assignment to the DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. The two speakers are Dr. Richard Schmalensee and Dr. Carl Linvill.
Dr. Schmalensee is the Director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Dr. Schmalensee was co-chair of the recent MIT Energy Initiative report on The Future of the Electric Grid. Dr. Linvill is Director of Integrated Energy Analysis and Planning with Aspen Environmental Group and a member of the Western Grid Group. He is a major contributor to the Clean Energy Vision Project.
For more information on this and the other tribal webinars, visit http://www.repartners.org/#tribeseries.
Western conducted an Unwinding Transmission Policies webinar for 30 Native American Tribes and other interested parties Feb. 29 to explain what transmission policy is, how it is established and who enforces it. FERC Order 1000 and its possible impact to transmission resources were also discussed.
Questions ranged from whether Western would be releasing a renewable request for proposals to very specific issues regarding FERC policy.
“[It] was a well-done presentation. I appreciated [the speaker]’s organized and thoughtful approach to such a complex topic,” said Jan Bush, an environmental planner at Transcon Environmental. “When the recorded presentation becomes available, I would like to share it with the environmental planning staff here at Transcon.
This is the fourth webinar Western has held in partnership with the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and the DOE Tribal Energy Program.
Check out more, including audio recordings and presentations, in Western’s press release.
Western’s line crew from the Cody maintenance shop string new cable on the Big George-to-Glendale Tap 69-kV line after a winter storm took down the line Feb. 23, causing an outage in northwest Wyoming.
On the surface, the outage that affected northwest Wyoming at about 9:10 a.m. Feb. 23 seems straight forward: A winter storm took down a 69-kilovolt transmission line north of Cody near the Park County Regional Landfill, thrusting the local utilities and the residents of Cody, Powell, Willwood, Garland and Ralston into darkness for nearly two hours.
Power was restored at about 10:50 a.m., but it wasn’t because the downed line was back on the towers.
The evening before, another event about 60 miles away from the downed line, probably caused by wind swinging the cables, called conductors, too close together on the Lovell-to-North Cody 69-kV transmission line, cut off the back-up power feed to the area through the Lovell Substation. This problem left the Big George-to-Glendale Tap 69-kV line the only power source in the area.
“This was a one in a million deal for us,” said Cody Field Manager Doug Padgett, who responded to the Lovell Substation. “You had two separate, distinct problems caused by two separate, distinct events. It was not expected at all.”
Check out the full story on how Western and the local community worked together to restore power in Wyoming at Western’s Newsroom.