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United States Transmission: Cross border connections

Two new transmission lines straddling the United States border with Canada are set to pave the way for 1 GW of new wind power. But while both lines have construction permits in place, financing them is still up in the air.

Canadian company Sea Breeze is working on plans for a 500 kV underwater transmission link between View Royal, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, and Port Angeles in Washington State (map ref 1). The Juan de Fuca line, as it is known, will only be built if Sea Breeze secures power purchase agreements for the electricity from its planned wind projects in Vancouver, says the company's Paul Manson. This is essential so it can secure financing from potential lenders for both the transmission line and the wind projects, which include a fully permitted 100 MW wind farm as well as others in early stage development.

The Juan de Fuca line could accommodate electricity from at least 550 MW of wind, but in boosting the whole area's north-south electricity transmission capability, its benefits spread beyond Vancouver's wind industry, says Manson. He hopes to persuade the two local system operators, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) on the US side and British Columbia Transmission Corporation, of the wider benefits in the hope they will help finance the new line, potentially passing on the cost to customers.

Further east, Montana-Alberta Tie Ltd (MATL) is also hoping for funding from the local system operator for a 230 kV AC line, which will run 345 kilometres from Great Falls, Montana, to Canada's Lethbridge in Alberta (map ref 5), sending 600 MW of wind power both ways. Construction is scheduled for later this year. All the necessary construction approvals are in place and, despite some opposition from local landowners, MATL's parent company, Toronto's Tonbridge Power, is confident it can open the line in 2012.

As well as private finance, MATL is looking for money from the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), whose territory covers 15 states including Montana. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in February, WAPA can borrow up to $3.25 billion from the US Treasury to fund transmission infrastructure and is looking for projects. It issued a request for interest for potential projects in March and received more than 100 proposals, including the MATL line.

"They are looking for projects that are shovel-ready and they are looking for transmission that will enable the development of new renewable energy sources, which is exactly what our project does," says MATL's Bob Williams. MATL has sold long-term capacity rights to three companies with wind projects that will tie into the line at about its midpoint, with half the power flowing north into Alberta and half south to Great Falls. Naturener USA has the rights to all 300 MW of the northbound capacity, while the southbound capacity is split between Invenergy Wind Montana LLC (180 MW) and Wind Hunter LLC (120 MW).

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