The Bonneville Power Administration is proposing two transmission line upgrades in Washington and Montana that with four new high-voltage lines already under construction or consideration would deliver 3,200 additional megawatts of electricity, including 1,900 megawatts of wind power.

The two new projects are the result of BPA’s Network Open Season, a process to better gauge demand for new transmission and manage BPA’s transmission queue. One project, the Northern Intertie Reinforcements, would combine substation, line and other equipment upgrades to increase capacity on BPA’s interconnection with Canada. This effort includes a proposed transmission project involving Puget Sound Energy.

The other, referred to as the Colstrip Upgrade Project, would combine system upgrades to increase transmission capacity in eastern Washington and Montana. It would allow delivery of high quality wind resources from Montana into the Northwest grid. The Colstrip Upgrade Project needs to be coordinated with a project planned by NorthWestern Energy to upgrade the Colstrip Transmission System further into Montana.

“These new cost-effective transmission projects will integrate renewable energy and provide other regional benefits, and we’re glad to be doing our part,” said Brian Silverstein, senior vice president, BPA Transmission Services. “This year’s results are also encouraging because we can grant more than 1,600 additional megawatts of transmission service through the four projects already underway thanks to the 2008 Network Open Season.”

While roughly half of this year’s transmission service requests can be granted through completion of the 2008 projects, the rest will require the two projects identified in the 2010 Network Open Season. The 3,200 MW of new service equates to about triple the generating capacity of Bonneville Dam.

“The projects will allow BPA to provide transmission service to wind projects in Montana,” said Silverstein. “Most wind projects on the BPA system to date have been concentrated in the Columbia Gorge and nearby regions. They tend to vary together making balancing the wind a challenge. More geographic diversity in wind projects could make balancing easier.”

BPA will now complete preliminary engineering and environmental review of the projects which could take one to two years and will decide whether to proceed with the projects after that.