“While the BLM took longer than anyone else to approve the project, the TransWest Express line suffered from “a ‘spider web of jurisdiction’ across multiple levels of government,” according to Roxane Perruso, the company’s COO. Perruso toldEnergyWire, a trade publication, that the project required approvals from state, local, and federal entities—and getting those permits required surveys of over 40,000 acres of land for environmental impacts and 60,000 acres of land for cultural impacts.
All that to get permission to build a power line, which is less invasive than other forms of infrastructure can be. In addition to the BLM and state governments of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, the project needed approval from the U.S. Forest Service, part of the federal Department of Agriculture, and the Western Area Power Administration, which is part of the federal Department of Energy. (In fairness, EnergyWire notes that the project also got snagged by disputes with some private property owners along the planned route.)
With all the permission slips finally locked down, construction on the line will begin later this year, and the 3,000-megawatt line could be operational by 2028, EnergyWire reports. By then, it’ll be 23 years since the project was first proposed in 2005.
To put it simply: It should not take nearly a quarter century to build a supply line connecting renewable electric supply with an area where there is growing demand. But this is a recurring problem in America. A recent Princeton study found that 80 percent of the potential emissions reductions from green energy projects funded by the Inflation Reduction Act would be lost without an expansion of transmission lines.
The time and expense of permitting have slowed or prevented some major renewable energy projects in recent years. “Windmills off Cape Cod, a geothermal facility in Nevada, and what could have been the largest solar farm in America have all been blocked by an endless series of environmental reviews and lawsuits,” Alec Stapp, a co-founder of the Institute for Progress, which advocates for policies that accelerate technological and industrial progress, wrote last year in The Atlantic. “U.S. climate spending could exceed more than half a trillion dollars by the end of this decade—but without permitting reform, those investments won’t translate into much physical infrastructure.””