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Transmission Project Means Clean Energy, Good Jobs for U.S. West

 

February 29, 2012

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The endless flat prairies of Wyoming make it one of the most fertile areas in North America for the development of wind power, with nearly 1,500 megawatts of wind energy capacity installed since 2001.


The problem: getting this rich harvest of renewable power to the big western population centers that need it the most – Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco.

The solution: a 725-mile, 600 kilovolt direct current transmission line connecting wind farms in Wyoming to communities in California, Nevada and Arizona. 

TransWest Express LLC and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers announced Feb. 27 a new partnership to build the TransWest Express Transmission Project. One of the largest transmission systems to be built in decades, it is estimated that it will provide nearly 2 million households with clean, renewable energy upon its completion around 2017.

Says International President Edwin D. Hill in a joint statement with TransWest:

The TransWest Express Transmission Project provides the missing link to many clean energy initiatives – building the transmission lines that bring renewable energy to densely populated areas. We look forward to working with TransWest to create good jobs for communities while giving residents the skills for the future and boosting economic demand in those areas.

TransWest chief executive Bill Miller estimates that the project will create more than 1,500 construction jobs at its height, plus thousands of positions in the service and manufacturing sector.

As the Center for American Progress pointed out in a 2008 report, the U.S.’s outdated and inefficient electrical grid – which dates from the 1950s or even earlier – remains the top obstacle to development of renewable energy, with existing transmission lines unable to handle the long distances needed to make solar and wind a major part of many urban areas’ energy portfolios:

Our electricity grid is an integral but often overlooked element in the shift to a low-carbon economy. The current grid configuration cannot handle the growth in electricity demand expected over the next few decades unless we act quickly to modernize it. Grid modernization must be compatible with scaling up renewable energy generation, including the ability to incorporate intermittent renewable electricity generation, and carrying renewable power to city centers, which in many cases will require long-distance transmission.

The TransWest Express Transmission Project will extend from southwest Wyoming through northern Colorado and Utah, terminating in Las Vegas.

The IBEW and TransWest have agreed to build the project under a project labor agreement that includes a commitment to hiring returning veterans through the Helmets to Hardhats program, and implementing the union’s Code of Excellence to maximize productivity, efficiency and safety on the job.

Says Miller:

We look forward to a productive partnership with the IBEW as the transmission project delivers economic, environmental and electrical system benefits regionally and nationally.

Construction is expected to begin by 2014.

 

 

 

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