GILLETTE -- A high-voltage transmission line that could transport 3,000 megawatts of Wyoming wind power to Nevada will cut through about 150 miles of southeastern Wyoming, according to a proposal announced Wednesday.
Duke-American Transmission Co., a Charlotte, N.C.-based partnership between Duke Energy and American Transmission Co., announced in a release that they intend to site their line, called the Zephyr Power Transmission Project, along a course that starts at a converter station south of Chugwater, follows Interstate 80 west and then cuts straight south just west of Rawlins. The line would then cross northwest Colorado and central Utah before terminating in southern Nevada.
The project would be part of a series of transmission lines proposed by several companies that could buoy Wyoming's emerging wind power industry. Producers have struggled to establish new projects in the state despite ample wind resources, but Zephyr and other lines would help producers export their product to California, a highly populated and renewable energy-hungry state.
Most of Zephyr's capacity -- about 2,000 megawatts -- will be generated at a proposed Pathfinder Renewable Energy wind farm slated near Chugwater. The company aims to begin construction on the project in 2017 and begin transmission in 2020.
DATC bought the Zephyr project from TransCanada in 2011 and has since studied a bevy of routes for the line. The announced route was chosen as the preference from a list of five or six options, most of which followed the interstate for a significant Wyoming distance. At least one followed the highway all the way to Utah. TransCanada had preferred a line that traveled west to Idaho Falls before going straight south to Las Vegas. DATC had not declared a preference until Wednesday.
The proposed line starts about eight miles south of Chugwater, where it moves straight west into Albany County. It would cross the county following a line well north of Bosler and Rock River before crossing into Carbon County north of Medicine Bow. The project would then cross I-80 just west of Walcott and would continue to follow the interstate into Sweetwater County, where it would turn back south into Carbon County and enter Colorado about 15 miles west of Baggs.
Company spokeswoman Anne Spaltholtz said the chosen path offers the fewest impacts and maximizes the use of current and proposed transmission corridors across the state. About 80 percent of the line would follow existing transmission corridors, and the other 20 percent would be sited along other proposed projects in Wyoming's portfolio.
Now that its preferred route has been chosen, the company will allow the public to vet the line in a series of public meetings in early April. The company will host four meetings in Wyoming, including forums in Laramie, Wheatland and Rawlins. Once the meetings are done and the company has considered the information gathered, DATC will file an application for federal and state review.
“We want to initiate this dialogue early in the project’s development to solicit input on possible constraints and issues that we should consider prior to the permitting process," project manager Chris Jones said in a prepared statement. "We invite everyone who could be impacted by the project to get involved.”