A key link in bringing Wyoming wind power to California gets federal BLM approval
Energize Weekly, April 19, 2023
After 15 years of planning and permitting battles, a key piece in billionaire Philip Anschutz’s $8 billion project to bring Wyoming wind power to California – the 732-mile TransWest Express transmission line – got a green light from federal officials.
The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a notice to proceed with construction on April 11 and work on the line between Sinclair, Wyo. and Crystal, Nev., south of Las Vegas, is targeted to begin later this year with the first stage completed in 2027.
The BLM said in a statement that approval is “a significant milestone in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to modernize America’s power infrastructure in the West and achieve a fully carbon-free electric grid by 2035.”
TransWest LLC, which is wholly owned by the Anschutz Corp., was created in 2008 to hold and develop transmission assets. It is a complement to another Anschutz subsidiary, the Power Company of Wyoming.
Anschutz has interests in ranching, agriculture, real estate, energy development, railroads, and other industries.
Since 2007, the Power Company of Wyoming has been developing the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, a 3,000-megawatt (MW) capacity wind farm on 1,500 acres south the Sinclair in Carbon County, Wyo. It is the largest onshore wind project in North America.
The wind farm is on the 320,000-acre Overland Trail Cattle Company, a working ranch owned by Anschutz.
The wind project will cost an estimated $5 billion and the TransWest line another $3 billion.
Bill Miller, CEO of TransWest, said in a statement that the BLM approval “provides important certainty that is needed as we work to complete other pre-construction steps.”
In February, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also approved a plan for TransWest to sell all its line capacity to the Power Company of Wyoming.
The high-voltage transmission line will be built in three segments: a 3,000-MW segment from Wyoming to Utah and two 1,500-MW segments from Utah to Nevada.
The project could provide electricity to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power through an interconnection to a project being developed by the Intermountain Power Agency in Delta, Utah.
The line will connect with the Eldorado substation, in Clarke County, Nev., which is linked to the California grid.
In December, the California Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s electric grid, approved TransWest Express as a participating transmission owner on the grid, opening the way for Chokecherry and Sierra Madre electricity making its way to southern California utilities.
More than 1,000 jobs are projected to be created during the line’s construction.
“This large-scale transmission line will put people to work across our public lands and will help deliver clean, renewable energy. Our responsible use of public lands today can help ensure a clean energy future for us all,” BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement.