TransCanada wins approval for U.S. wind power lines

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TransCanada Corp. won federal approval of its rate plan for two proposed power transmission lines that would primarily deliver wind-generated energy from Montana and Wyoming to the southwestern U.S.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington voted Thursday for the projects — a 1,000-mile line known as Chinook that would stretch from Montana to Nevada and a 1,100-mile line, known as Zephyr, stretching from Wyoming to Nevada. Both would end south of Las Vegas.

“We must do more to unlock the potential of our country’s location-constrained renewable energy resources,” Jon Wellinghoff, acting chairman of the commission, said at a public meeting of the commission. “This order is one of the most significant steps this commission has taken toward that goal.”

The U.S. has inadequate transmission capacity to carry the electricity that wind and solar power projects could produce, according to a report Wednesday by two renewable-energy groups. Wind-power projects waiting to be hooked up to transmission lines could supply 20% of the nation’s electricity needs, according to the report issued by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association.

TransCanada rose 78 cents, or 2.5%, to $32.24 at 11:48 a.m. on the Toronto Stock Exchange and had fallen 21% in the 12 months before Thursday.

Each of the company’s transmission lines will be capable of carrying 3,000 megawatts of electricity and aims to serve markets in southern Nevada, Arizona and California. Chinook could be in service by late 2014, according to regulatory filings.

The regulatory commission for the first time approved a model that permits half of the capacity of the lines to be reserved by an “anchor customer,” instead of having an open season for all of a line’s capacity.

“The project will provide critical transmission infrastructure in the Western United States that will enable the large-scale development of environmentally attractive renewable generation projects in both Montana and Idaho,” the company said in its Dec. 19 filing with the commission.

The US$787-billion stimulus legislation signed this week by President Barack Obama includes at least US$14-billion in tax breaks for wind and solar electricity and establishes a grant program to help finance projects. It also devotes US$11-billion to new transmission lines and so-called smart-grid technology.


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