The owners of the Colstrip Project 500 kV transmission lines announced that they have entered into an agreement to identify and develop upgrades to the lines, which are part of NorthWestern Energy's transmission system.
NorthWestern Energy, Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric and Avista Corp. are pursuing upgrades that would provide additional transmission capacity in order to integrate electricity from potential new generation projects in Montana into the western electric grid.
"There has been a dramatic increase in generation development activity in Montana in the last several years," said Dave Gates, NorthWestern Energy's Vice President of Wholesale Operations." Without significant upgrades to the western transmission system, including the 500 kV transmission system in Montana, very little of the proposed new generation in Montana will be built."
The Colstrip Project 500 kV lines were built in the early 1980s at a time when electric generation and transmission projects were planned and constructed together in an integrated process. The industry is much different today with projects constructed separately and often by different entities. Therefore, the owners of the Colstrip Project transmission lines are proactively pursuing upgrades to the system that will contribute to a more balanced energy landscape in Montana and the Pacific Northwest.
"Electric loads are growing rapidly in many areas of the West and many resources, both traditional as well as renewable, will need additional transmission to serve this growing demand," added Gates. "The potential upgrades to the 500 kV system will meet at least part of this need and will be provided to the market on a nondiscriminatory basis under FERC rules."
The Rocky Mountain Area Transmission Study (RMATS) identified the Colstrip system upgrade in its recommendations as an opportunity for additional transmission capacity in the West. The parties are in the process of evaluating alternatives on the basis of economics and reliability, but they have not yet reached any definitive conclusions regarding specific actions.