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Powerline Plans Advance in Southwest, Lag in Northwest

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Plans for federally controlled power lines to transmit solar power are moving ahead in the Southwest, but in the Northwest, lines to move wind power are being slowed while wind developments there are being re-evaluated.

Photo courtesy of AP WIDEWORLD / Jae C. Hong
MIXED MARKET Solar Southwest is strong, but the windy Northwest is weak.
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The Western Area Power Administration announced it will hire construction firms to upgrade and build parts of a $91-million transmission- line project in southern Arizona.

The 109-mile Electrical District 5-to-Palo Verde transmission project includes a mix of new and upgraded WAPA-owned 230-kV lines as well as the acquisition of capacity on a 500-kV line that runs to the Palo Verde hub.

The federal power marketer intends to issue a series of solicitations starting in January for the project's construction work, Lisa Meiman, WAPA spokeswoman, said on Sept. 16. The agency says the job will create about 150 construction jobs. WAPA will do its own engineering work, she said. The agency expects the project to be operational in 2015.

The project is designed to support new renewable generation and electric load growth in the area. Solar developers likely will be the main beneficiary of the Arizona line, which will run through a sun-drenched area south of Phoenix, according to WAPA.

The project is the third WAPA has approved under its $3.25 billion in borrowing authority for renewable-related power lines. In 2009, the federal government expanded the credit line as part of the federal stimulus effort.

Northwest Wind Power Dying

WAPA's sister agency, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), however, said it has halted pre-construction activity on the $90-million Central Ferry-Lower Monumental transmission line in southern Washington after developers there told BPA the line might not be necessary. That line and four others are expected to draw from BPA's borrowing authority, also expanded by $3.25 billion under the stimulus act.

After examining wind and other generation projects coming online in the Northwest, BPA discovered that developers with 62 projects totaling 3,000 MW would like to modify or cancel their agreements to receive transmission service.

That amount is out of the 263 projects, totaling 11,722 MW, requesting transmission service from BPA since 2008. While BPA will not identify specific projects, some were apparently within the corridor of the planned Central Ferry-Lower Monumental transmission line.

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