Two major transmission projects to boost renewable-energy delivery in the West and New England moved forward this month, as one market analyst forecast a steady market ahead, albeit with some obstacles.
The Nevada Public Utilities Commission earlier this month conditionally approved a permit for the $3-billion, 730-mile TransWest Express transmission project, which will deliver generation from Wyoming to southern Nevada and California. It is considered one of the most advanced U.S. regional transmission projects, intended to deliver about 3,000 MW of mainly renewable power in California. The Legislature's boost on Sept. 11 of the state's renewable portfolio standard to 50% by 2030 could bolster the project. Project developer Anschutz Corp. expects to have final federal approvals by early next year.
Meanwhile, in response to RFPs from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut to boost clean-energy delivery, a partnership of National Grid and developer Anbaric on Sept. 9 proposed the $600-million Vermont Green Line, which will run from Plattsburgh, N.Y., to New Haven, Vt., and deliver 400 MW of renewable energy by 2020. About 60 miles will be built under Lake Champlain, with another 19 miles underground to link the New York and New England grids, says project manager Bryan Sanderson.
In a Sept. 21 research note, Andrew Wittman, construction-sector analyst for investment firm Baird Equity, forecast "modest growth" over the next five years for the U.S. transmission market, "with a shift toward reliability as a market driver, rather than renewables integration." He notes several large programs up for bid in 2016 but also a "domino effect of a reeling commodity sector" in Canada that will reduce or delay investment. Wittman also predicted more U.S. market competition from Canadian and European contractors but sees the distribution market as "healthy and growing, led by automation and other smart-grid investments."