WAPA Approves Interconnection Of 504-MW Wyoming Wind Project

July 29, 2022

by Peter Maloney
July 29, 2022

The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) recently approved interconnection requests for a proposed 504-megawatt (MW) wind power project in eastern Wyoming.

The proposed Rail Tie Wind Project is being developed by ConnectGen, based in Houston, and calls for up to 149 wind turbines sited on approximately 26,000-acre site that includes both private and state land roughly centered on the town of Tie Siding close to the Colorado border. The project would also include access roads, collection lines, substations, control buildings, meteorological towers and other related infrastructure.

The Rail Tie project was approved by the Albany County Board of County Commissioners in July 2021, the Wyoming State Board of Land Commissioners in January 2021, and the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council in November 2021.

Over the past three years, WAPA has been evaluating two interconnection requests submitted by ConnectGen Albany County to connect the Rail Tie Wind Project to the existing Ault-Craig 345-kilovolt line in Albany County, Wyoming, owned by WAPA, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and Platte River Power Authority.

When ConnectGen completes all other local, state and federal permitting requirements, it would finance and build and WAPA would own, operate and maintain a switchyard to control power flow onto the existing transmission line.

ConnectGen filed two interconnection requests with WAPA, each 252 MW, to accommodate build-out of its proposed project in two stages, if necessary. However, there would be only one interconnection point on the Ault-Craig transmission line.

Under federal regulations, interconnection requests are generally approved if there is sufficient capacity is available, operation of the power system would not be negatively affected, the applicant funds any necessary system upgrades, and existing power customers are not affected.

In the case of Rail Tie project, WAPA determined that while its federal action to approve or deny ConnectGen’s interconnection requests was a minor action environmentally, the proposed project had the potential for significant environmental impacts and should be analyzed as a “connected action.” WAPA, therefore, determined that the proposed project constituted a major federal action requiring the preparation of an environment impact statement (EIS). Preparing the EIS helped ensure that WAPA could make an informed decision on the interconnection requests, the agency said.

WAPA determined that interconnecting the ConnectGen project would not negatively affect the reliability of the transmission system or degrade service to existing customers and that no system upgrades would be required to support the interconnection.

WAPA also found that ConnectGen “adopted all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm from its proposed Project, which includes WAPA’s interconnection switchyard.”

At the same time, WAPA noted that it is “cognizant that ConnectGen’s Project will have significant impacts on visual resources in the Project viewshed, potentially significant impacts on eagles through collisions with operating turbines, and significant adverse effects on certain” National Register of Historic Places cultural resources, such as the Ames Monument.

WAPA noted that ConnectGen has taken steps to alleviate those concerns but also noted that final assessment of those concerns lies with other agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which will be analyzing the impact of the wind project on eagles and other raptors.

“Connecting more renewable energy projects to the grid is a critical step in modernizing America’s energy infrastructure and meeting our nation’s growing energy needs,” Tracey LeBeau, WAPA administrator and CEO, said in a statement. “Our technical analyses found available capacity on WAPA’s system and the comprehensive analysis in the EIS provided environmental impact information, both of which informed the interconnection record of decision.”