BPA commits $1billion to US transmission projects

US: Federal utility the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is to spend $1billion in stimulus money on new transmission lines to enable about 3GW of wind, the utility has announced.

The BPA, which operates more than 15,000 miles of lines in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, said it is spending $1billion on four transmission projects. These are either underway or scheduled to begin in the next two years.

It will spend another $585million on upgrades, using money borrowed from the federal government.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, also known as the stimulus bill, increased the money that the BPA may borrow from the US Treasury by $3.25billion.  The funds must be paid back with interest.

New-build transmission projects include the 500kv McNary-John Day line along the Oregon-Washington border, which is already under construction. The line will allow 495MW of wind power to join the grid when it is completed in early 2012, the BPA said.

The $1billion of transmission will add more than 220miles of lines to the grid, the BPA said.

In total, the BPA has earmarked $2billion in stimulus money for a series of major projects. These include transmission, hydro power and fish hatcheries. It has spent $174.4million of that figure to date.