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Butte, Mont.-based NorthWestern Energy has announced that it and three other ownership partners in the Colstrip Transmission System (CTS) have agreed to proceed with a study of potential upgrades to the existing 500kV system in Montana. NorthWestern Energy, Puget Sound Energy (PSE), PacifiCorp, and Portland General Electric (PGE) will identify and evaluate one or more potential system upgrades that may accommodate the transmission of wind and other renewable generation.

The CTS consists primarily of twin 500 kV lines that carry electricity from the companies' jointly owned Colstrip power plants in eastern Montana to Townsend, Mont., where the CTS lines interconnect with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) transmission system. The CTS and BPA transmission lines ultimately deliver Colstrip power to the customers of PSE, PacifiCorp, Avista and PGE. As part of the study agreement, the companies will begin discussions with BPA about a corresponding upgrade of its Montana Intertie between Townsend and Garrison, Mont., and points west.

"Renewable energy resource areas can only reach their full potential when accessed by robust transmission capacity," says John Cupparo, PacifiCorp's vice president of transmission. "That's true for Montana and for other areas of the West, where renewable resources are developing alongside traditional sources of power generation."

The four utilities have agreed to share the cost to conduct a thorough and independent review of the power-transmission alternatives and potential ownership structures. The ownership structure of any upgrade option will be determined once projects are identified and agreed to by participating utilities.

SOURCE: NorthWestern Energy

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