Transmission
Energy has no borders. Increasing demand for electricity in one state may be met by tapping into the resources of another state. And as demand increases in new and existing markets, additional infrastructure will be needed to ensure reliable delivery.

A subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company has partnered with Westar and American Electric Power in Prairie Wind, a joint venture to integrate wind energy into regional power grids through the construction of 230 miles of 765 kilovolt power lines in Kansas.

In addition, PacifiCorp, a MidAmerican subsidiary, has launched Energy Gateway, a far-ranging infrastructure development project that will add approximately 2000 miles of new high-voltage transmission and more than $4 billion in capital improvements to help meet the electricity needs of the Western United States. Energy Gateway utilizes a hub and spoke approach to transmission that establishes collector hubs in resource-intensive areas for renewables and other energy resources. With the permitting, design, and procurement phase of the project already underway, the first segments of Energy Gateway were placed into service in 2010.

While customers in Western states have expressed a decisive preference for electricity from clean, renewable sources such as wind and hydropower, a number of deteriorating conditions may hinder the development and transmission of renewable energy. The existing transmission system in the West contains some of the most congested paths, creating the potential for transmission bottlenecks. Transmission expansion in the West is capital-intensive because of the long distances between resources and markets.

Combined with the available resources and mandates on the use of renewable energy in each state, these factors demonstrate the importance of regional planning and coordination for new transmission projects, such as the Western Renewable Energy Zone initiative. Collaborative decision-making and public outreach by state governments can help connect high-value generation from geographically isolated areas to high-demand markets.

Finally, administrative reforms made by the federal government – such as those passed by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 1992 – are long overdue and warranted to help expedite the processing and construction of needed energy projects that span Western federal lands.