Major power transmission line comes online
December 3, 2020
CASPER — When a company produces electricity using coal, natural gas or renewable energy in Wyoming, it needs a way of transporting that power to customers, both in the state and beyond.
That’s where a transmission line comes in: The high-voltage power lines zip electricity across the landscape between substations, ultimately reaching resident’s homes.
Wyoming’s largest rate-regulated utility, Rocky Mountain Power, announced on Nov. 19 it had completed a key segment of its Gateway West transmission line. This part of the line runs from a brand new substation just beyond Medicine Bow to another new substation near the Jim Bridger power plant outside Rock Springs.
Substations are important components of electrical systems. They help connect multiple transmission segments together and transformers at the substations help shift voltage levels up and down as needed. Higher voltage levels help distribute power across transmission lines more efficiently.
Rod Fisher, project manager of Aeolus Substation near Medicine Bow, compared the substation to an on-ramp of an interstate freeway system, where energy merges onto a transmission network and is transported to other parts of the electric grid.
Rocky Mountain Power’s latest infrastructure milestone adds 140 miles of power lines to Wyoming’s transmission ecosystem. The company said the addition will help the utility deliver the electricity it creates here to residential, commercial and industrial customers throughout its sixstate territory. The utility provides energy to approximately 1.2 million customers in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.
As one of the top exporters of energy in the country, Wyoming needs transmission infrastructure to deliver power to out-of-state customers. Many stakeholders in the utility business here have been seeking to expand transmission capacity for years to meeting high demand for energy out west.
“This $700 million transmission project was completed on schedule and on budget, overcoming challenges resulting from the impacts of COVID-19 and before the onset of Wyoming’s winter weather,” Sharon Fain, Rocky Mountain Power’s vice president for Wyoming, said in a statement.
According to Fain, completing this segment of the line required a robust project management team and almost 700 skilled contractors to bring it to fruition.
“This expansion will support Wyoming’s vital role as one of the nation’s top sources of energy, while at the same time diversifying its energy economy,” Fain added.
The high-voltage lines are capable of transporting electricity generated from a variety of sources here, including energy culled from the utility’s multiple wind farms and coal from its long-standing power plants.
A five-mile part of Rocky Mountain Power’s newest line also bridges the major Anticline substation to the Jim Bridger substation, along with additional interconnection units, according to a Nov. 19 announcement.
The transmission line has been an integral part of the utility’s major plan — known as Energy Vision 2020 — to modernize its energy system to bring approximately $450 million in savings to ratepayers over the course of several decades.
The company is also working to begin construction on a sister transmission line known as Gateway South. About 108 miles of that transmission line will run through Carbon County, and about 34 miles will be routed through Sweetwater County, across a checkerboard of federal, state and private land.