Major transmission project OK’d

TransWest powerline will link wind project to out-of-state markets

CASPER — The Biden administration has approved the TransWest Transmission Project, a high-voltage power line that will carry electricity 732 miles from Wyoming through Colorado, Utah and Nevada, the Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday. 

Once built, the transmission line will link the 3,000-megawatt Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project — a southern Wyoming wind farm on track to become the country’s largest before 2030 — to hard-to-access electricity markets outside state borders. 

“This large-scale transmission line will put people to work across our public lands and will help deliver clean, renewable energy,” BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement. “Our responsible use of public lands today can help ensure a clean energy future for us all.” 

It took the BLM more than a decade to sign off on what is now set to be a major addition to the Western electric grid. The agency began studying the proposal in 2011, when Barack Obama was still relatively new to the presidency. It then released a draft environmental review in July 2013 and initiated public hearings in Wyoming shortly thereafter. 

About two-thirds of TransWest’s transmission project is located on federal land. The notice to proceed from the BLM was the last big hurdle the company needed to overcome before it could start building.

“We appreciate the federal, state and local agencies and all of the other stakeholders who collaborated and diligently worked through the process with us to reach this day,” said Bill Miller, president and CEO of TransWest, in a statement. 

Along the way, the Denver-based transmission developer has amassed the myriad other permissions needed for what it called “the Western power grid’s largest transmission addition in decades.” 

Now it has to iron out smaller details — like finalizing its contract with the not-yet-announced company that will install the power line.

 “The NTP is really when you’re done with the federal process,” said Kara Choquette, TransWest’s communications director. “But it doesn’t mean construction starts tomorrow.” 

Instead, with the BLM approval in hand, TransWest aims to break ground by the end of this year. 

TransWest’s regulatory win comes as Power Company of Wyoming finishes building roads and clearing land at the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre site and prepares to start installing hundreds of turbines there between 2025 and 2028. (Both TransWest and Power Company of Wyoming are subsidiaries of the Anschutz Corporation.) 

It also follows less than a year after the BLM gave a similar nod in September to parts of electric utility Rocky Mountain Power’s 1,000-mile Gateway West transmission project. Like TransWest’s project, the power line is intended to help fill in the gaps in existing infrastructure and enable renewable electricity producers in Wyoming to reach out-of-state customers. 

“TransWest is going to open new markets for Wyoming electricity,” Choquette said. 

She added, “TransWest is that truly interregional kind of bulk transmission capacity that will connect Wyoming to these new areas of Southern California, Arizona and Nevada that it’s not serving today.”