By Nichola Groom
(Reuters) – U.S. officials on Tuesday gave final approval for a company owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz to begin building a massive transmission line that will deliver wind energy from blustery Wyoming to power-hungry California.
The “notice to proceed” from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management allows TransWest Express LLC to break ground on its $3 billion line after more than 15 years of development. About two-thirds of the project will be on federal lands.
In a statement, the bureau said its approval of the 732-mile TransWest Express line was “a significant milestone in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to modernize America’s power infrastructure in the West and achieve a fully carbon-free electric grid by 2035.”
Big high-voltage transmission projects are seen as imperative to delivering large amounts of renewable power from far-flung windy and sunny regions to population centers. But permitting lines across a multi-state patchwork of private and public lands can take years.
A separate Anschutz firm owns the 600-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind farm in Wyoming, which is being built, that will send power through TransWest Express.
TransWest Express construction will start later this year and the first stage will be completed in 2027, the company said. The line will run from south central Wyoming, through Colorado, Utah and Nevada to a substation outside of Las Vegas.
“We appreciate the federal, state and local agencies and all of the other stakeholders who collaborated and diligently worked through the process with us to reach this day,” Bill Miller, CEO of TransWest Express LLC, said in a statement.
Anschutz got his start in the oil industry in Wyoming, and also owns stakes in professional sports teams and entertainment venues through his Anschutz Entertainment Group.