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Portland, Ore.-based Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal electric utility that operates a high-voltage transmission grid, has decided to build a major new transmission project called the McNary-John Day 500 kV transmission line.

The $246 million project, made possible in part because of new borrowing authority in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is expected to create about 700 jobs at its peak. When commissioned in late 2012, the line will allow BPA to provide service for up to 870 MW of energy, including service for more than 700 MW of new wind energy. Work is expected to begin this spring, says BPA.

The line will run from BPA's McNary substation in Oregon, cross the Columbia River and run parallel to the Columbia River for 75 miles - mostly within existing rights-of-way - and then cross the Columbia River back into Oregon and end at BPA's John Day Substation.

In related news, the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) has been given the authority to borrow up to $3.25 billion from the U.S. Treasury due to the recent passage of the economic stimulus package. WAPA now has a mechanism to provide federal funding in partnerships to develop transmission infrastructure that delivers renewable energy to market. Ten million dollars in non-reimbursable funds will help to jump start the transmission program.

According to WAPA, these funds can be used to construct, finance, facilitate, plan, operate, maintain or study construction of new or upgraded electric power transmission lines and related facilities - with at least one end point within WAPA's service area - that deliver or facilitate delivery of power generated by renewable energy resources.

WAPA plans to kick off a public process within the month to outline the policies and procedures it will use to carry out this authority and to seek interest in potential projects that can be funded using this new authority.

SOURCES: Bonneville Power Administration, Western Area Power Administration


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