Article

Utility wants to spur transmission access

Electricity distributor NorthWestern Energy is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct "open-season" bidding from developers to gain access to two proposed electric transmission lines costing at least $1 billion. The power lines, if approved, could kick start wind farm development in Montana and deliver the renewable electricity produced by wind farms to markets across the West, according to NorthWestern officials. "We want to be the highway," NorthWestern spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said.

Electricity distributor NorthWestern Energy is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct "open-season" bidding from developers to gain access to two proposed electric transmission lines costing at least $1 billion.

The power lines, if approved, could kick start wind farm development in Montana and deliver the renewable electricity produced by wind farms to markets across the West, according to NorthWestern officials.

"We want to be the highway," NorthWestern spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said.

Even though the regional economy has slowed, demand for renewable power is ramping up as utilities strive to meet state-mandated standards for renewable energy use, NorthWestern CEO Bob Rowe added.

"Montana has very good wind power potential compared to many other Western states, which is why renewable energy developers and other Western utilities are very interested in importing power from Montana," he said.

The American Wind Energy Association ranks the state in the top five nationally in wind-power potential, but only 271 megawatts are produced by Montana wind farms, with developers saying limited transmission capacity is restricting development.

"In order... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Electricity distributor NorthWestern Energy is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct "open-season" bidding from developers to gain access to two proposed electric transmission lines costing at least $1 billion.

The power lines, if approved, could kick start wind farm development in Montana and deliver the renewable electricity produced by wind farms to markets across the West, according to NorthWestern officials.

"We want to be the highway," NorthWestern spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said.

Even though the regional economy has slowed, demand for renewable power is ramping up as utilities strive to meet state-mandated standards for renewable energy use, NorthWestern CEO Bob Rowe added.

"Montana has very good wind power potential compared to many other Western states, which is why renewable energy developers and other Western utilities are very interested in importing power from Montana," he said.

The American Wind Energy Association ranks the state in the top five nationally in wind-power potential, but only 271 megawatts are produced by Montana wind farms, with developers saying limited transmission capacity is restricting development.

"In order for these wind and other potential projects to be built, we must expand the transmission system to carry the power to population centers across the West, where it is in great demand," said Dave Gates, NorthWestern's vice president of wholesale operations.

Developers planning 5,000 megawatts of proposed new electric generation - most of it from wind farms - are waiting in line to use NorthWestern's existing transmission, but those lines are nearly at capacity, Gates said.

Under open-season bidding, a format that electricity distributors are beginning to borrow from the pipeline industry, potential customers pay to reserve capacity on proposed transmission lines.

The results from the open season bidding will guide NorthWestern by ensuring interest from electricity generators before proceeding in designing the size and locations of new transmission lines, Rapkoch said.

FERC has until March 15 to decide whether to approve the open seasons.

The first open season would be for five collector transmission lines in northcentral, Central, Eastern and southcentral Montana. No routes or project costs have been determined, but that's where the interest in wind farms is, Rapkoch said.

The other open season would reserve capacity on the 500-kilovolt Montana States Transmission Intertie between Townsend and Midpoint, Idaho, which would ship 1,500 megawatts, or nearly as much electricity as the entire state of Montana uses during peak hours.

A previous open season on the MISTI Line, which has an estimated cost of $800 million to $1 billion, was conducted to gauge the interest of developers, Rapkoch said. The second season will secure detailed commitments and give new developers a chance to participate, she added.

NorthWestern, which delivers electricity and natural gas to approximately 650,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, hopes to have the MISTI line in service in 2013.

Tonbridge Power is further along in planning a new transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta, called the Montana Alberta Tie Line.

The 600 megawatts of primary capacity on that line also were offered in an open season, with three wind power developers purchasing it. Regulators previously approved the line, and Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., the company building the line, hopes to begin construction this spring if it wins appeals filed by landowners.


Source: http://www.greatfallstribun...

JAN 17 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/18637-utility-wants-to-spur-transmission-access
back to top