BLM Approves the TransWest Express Transmission Project; This Is Good News and We Need More of It

Yesterday, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it has given final approval to the TransWest Express transmission line, a 732-mile project that will move electricity from a large wind farm in Wyoming to an interconnection point near Las Vegas.  Most of the electrons will ultimately provide power to California. 

According to EnergyWire (subscription required), the notice to proceed was issued a mere 18 years after the project was first initiated.  Suffice it to say that that’s a long time.  TransWest estimates project completion by the end of 2028.  That would mean that it will have taken 23 years from initiation to completion.  If the same timeline were applied to projects initiated today, such projects will start moving power in 2046.  Given that more and more states have ambitious goals to decarbonize the electric grid earlier than that, and that we can’t decarbonize the grid without expanding transmission, something’s got to give.

The Administration’s efforts to accelerate the permitting of such projects are laudable, but more is needed and it will require cooperation among parties that don’t seem able to cooperate at this point.  Transmission should be an apple pie issue.  It supports economic development, not just climate mitigation.  This would seem to be a “can’t we all just get along” kind of issue.

And with that, I will just close with two issues that, if not actually ironic, are at least notable.  First, just to exemplify how the current system has really affected how everyone thinks about these issues, is a quote in the GreenWire story from Vijay Satyal at Western Resource Advocates.

Can we reduce a 15-year process to something like 10 years or eight years or less?

I like that “or less” at the end, because is there anyone who can look at our current situation and think that a 10-year or 8-year review process would be a good outcome?  I think we need to aim for something faster than 8-10 years.

Second, I cannot resist noting that the TransWest Express will carry power from a 600-turbine wind project located in, of all places, Carbon County, Wyoming.

If that’s not ironic, it’s at the very least a very sweet coincidence.

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