TransCanada announces agreement
On May 20 the transmission developer TransCanada announced it has concluded a successful open season for its Zephyr Power Transmission project, and that it has signed precedent agreements for the full 3,000 megawatts of capacity with renewable energy developers in Wyoming.
Those renewable energy developers include Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy LLC, Horizon Wind Energy LLC, and BP Wind Energy NA Inc.
“We’re very excited about working with TransCanada – a very credible company – on the Zephyr Line and we believe we can bring responsible wind development to Wyoming that will be of great benefit to the ranching community,” says Jeff Meyer of Pathfinder Wind, which is headquartered on the Pathfinder Ranch near Alcova.
“These precedent agreements are a clear indication of wind developer support for significant export transmission capacity for renewable energy out of Wyoming into the southwest markets,” said Hal Kvisle, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer. “However, support in some key markets and a positive regulatory environment are necessary before we start the significant siting and permitting activities required to construct the project.”
The proposed Zephyr project is a 1,000-mile, 500-kilovolt, high voltage direct current line designed to move 3,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity from Wyoming to power markets in the southwest U.S. at a cost of approximately $3 billion. Should Zephyr proceed to construction, the company says major capital spending would start in late 2013, with a targeted timeframe for commercial operations of late 2015 to early 2016.
According to TransCanada, Zephyr would significantly contribute to economic development in the western states, enhance resource diversity, increase energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and would promote U.S. national and state policy goals to facilitate construction of new renewable energy generation.
Renewable Energy Association of Landowners (REAL) Chairman Bob Whitton agrees. “I think this is great. We’ve been asking TransCanada and LS Power to release the results of their open seasons. For the companies that successfully make it through an open season, it gives them solid progress toward bringing wind power to southeast Wyoming. This is one more big step toward bringing this to fruition.”
Whitton says the open season process also tends to weed out those developers who aren’t serious about actually putting wind turbines on the ground.
“You never know, when a company comes to your door asking you about leasing your ground for wind development, if they’re a good company and a solid prospect,” he notes. “When the transmission all shakes out it eliminates people that don’t have the wherewithal to get the project done and those that were just hoping to make a quick buck by flipping some ground. I see the results of open season as helping the good solid companies with financial backing; it clears the field and makes it better for everyone.”
TransCanada says that , as part of the siting and permitting process, formal consultation with landowners, public officials, agencies and other interested parties will now pick up as satisfactory regulatory, political and market conditions are clarified.
“Any project, by any of the market developers – whether they be transmission or the turbines themselves – is highly dependent on where the power has to go,” says Whitton. “The big market for this renewable energy is California, Arizona and Nevada, and if California is receptive to our power, that will make this that much easier.”
“You can’t sell something to somebody that doesn’t want it,” continues Whitton. “Until somebody actually buys the power and uses it, we’re just trading money with each other, kind of like in the cattle business when a rancher, feedlot and packer work together. We’re trading with each other until somebody buys our product.”
Of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) decision about whether or not to accept out-of-state renewable energy, Whitton says the original May 20 meeting date has been moved to June 1.
“Not too long ago we sent a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger and the CPUC with over 130 landowner signatures in support of bringing in wind from Wyoming to help California with their renewable energy standards,” he says. “We’re hoping that will have some effect to bring a decision in our favor.”
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.