At least four major power lines to export electricity from Montana are on the drawing board. Here is the status of the projects:
Mountain States Transmission Intertie: NorthWestern Energy, Montana’s largest electric-and-gas utility, is proposing this 430-mile, $1 billion line run from Townsend to southern Idaho.
The 500-kilovolt line would transport power generated in Montana to Southwestern markets. A draft environmental impact statement on the project is expected this year, and NorthWestern plans to accept bids this spring for space on the line. Construction is slated for some time in 2014 or 2015.
Collector System: NorthWestern also is proposing this network of lines to gather power from wind farms in Montana and route it to the Townsend hub, for transmission elsewhere.
Bids for space on the lines will be accepted at the same time as MSTI. Construction of all or portions of the line could begin in 2014 or sooner.
Chinook Transmission Project: TransCanada of Calgary, Alberta, is proposing this $3 billion, 1,100-mile line from Harlowton to southern Nevada. It says the line will carry mostly new wind power, to the Southwest.
In December, the company accepted bids from energy developers and suppliers to buy space on the line. TransCanada plans to announce winning bids by spring.
If all goes well, TransCanada will file for permits and conduct an environmental review between now and 2012 and start construction in 2012, a company spokesman said.
Colstrip transmission line upgrade: NorthWestern, utilities from Oregon and Washington, and the Bonneville Power Administration are considering on this project, which would increase the capacity of lines between Colstrip and the Pacific Northwest by 30 percent. The partners say the line is supposed to move “renewable” power, likely wind, from Montana into Washington and Oregon.
Discussions are under way on how the ownership and cost would be divided. The earliest the upgrade would occur is 2012.
MIKE DENNISON, Missoulian – http://www.missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/article_31c8154e-0e31-11df-b9be-001cc4c002e0.html