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With more jobs a goal, US to fast-track grid modernization projects

The Obama Administration says it is fast-tracking seven proposed electricity grid modernization projects to “speed the creation of thousands of construction and operations jobs.”

The projects are designed to serve as pilot demonstrations of streamlined federal permitting and increased cooperation at the federal, state and tribal levels. The proposed improvements will increase grid capacity in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

Building electric transmission lines involves coordination among multiple federal, state, and tribal agencies subject to permitting, review, and consultation. Officials say that improving the overall quality and timeliness of these procedures will allow the federal government to help expedite new transmission lines.

“Transmission is a vital component of our nation’s energy portfolio, and these seven lines, when completed, will serve as important links across our country to increase our power grid’s capacity and reliability,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

“To compete in the global economy, we need a modern electricity grid,” added Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “An upgraded electricity grid will give consumers choices while promoting energy savings, increasing energy efficiency, and fostering the growth of renewable energy resources.”

In October of 2009, nine federal entities — including the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation — signed a memorandum of understanding increasing their coordination to expedite and simplify building of transmission lines on federal lands.

Expanding on this to move beyond federal lands, the administration’s recently formed Rapid Response Team for Transmission (RRTT), made up of the same nine agencies, now aims to speed up deployment of key transmission projects through coordinated statutory permitting, review and consultation schedules and processes; a uniform approach to consultations with tribal governments; and expedited resolution of interagency conflicts. The RRTT’s seven selected pilot project transmission lines include:

  • A new 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission line from Boardman, Oregon, to the Hemingway substation in Idaho.
  • Around 1,150 miles of new, high-voltage transmission lines between the Windstar substation near Glenrock, Wyoming and the Hemingway substation in Idaho.
  • A double-circuit-capable 345-kV transmission line from a new substation near Hampton, Minnesota, to a site near Alma, Wisconsin.
  • Some 210 miles of 500-kV transmission line from Boardman, Oregon, to Salem, Oregon. The Cascade Crossing Transmission Project also includes the construction of four new substations and expansion of three existing substations.
  • Two 500-kV transmission lines originating at a new substation in Lincoln County near Ancho, New Mexico, and terminating at the Pinal Central substation in Pinal County near Coolidge, Arizona.
  • A 145-mile-long 500-kV transmission line from the Susquehanna substation in Pennsylvania to the Roseland substation in New Jersey, along with several 500 – 230-kV substations in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
  • A 700-mile-long 600-kV transmission line from Wyoming to Utah and Nevada. The project is expected to facilitate the development of new wind-energy projects in Wyoming.

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