‘Renewable energy hubs’ ID’d by western governors | VailDaily.com

‘Renewable energy hubs’ ID’d by western governors

PARK CITY, Utah – The Western Governors’ Association has identified 36 “renewable-energy hubs” – including four in Colorado – capable of producing enough electricity for about 5 million homes.

After releasing the energy study Monday at their annual meeting, the governors pressed Obama administration officials to speed approvals for new energy projects and new electricity-transmission lines in the West.

“We’ve got to translate the urgency into something on the ground,” said Wyoming Gov. David Freudenthal, a Democrat.

The governors met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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The Obama administration’s goal is to double the amount of renewable energy used in the U.S. in three years, Vilsack said.

In an effort to ensure that renewable-energy applications on federal land “don’t end up sitting on a shelf,” Interior will create renewable-energy offices to “fast-track” applications, Salazar said.

Transmission lines to carry power away from high plains, deserts and mountains will be key to developing Western renewable projects.

“Transmission is among the most significant impediments to the building out” of renewable resources, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter told the federal officials.

The two big Western power authorities – the Bonneville Power Authority and the Western Area Power Administration – each have $3.25 billion in loan guarantees for projects that they have not been distributing quickly enough, Chu said.

“I was pretty unhappy with that,” Chu told the governors.

The lines need to be built but at the right size and with adequate planning, Freudenthal said, “or my state will look like a plate on which you threw a whole bunch of spaghetti.”

The hubs, across 11 Western states, show the areas with the highest potential for generating hydro, geothermal, wind and solar power.

In the next phase, more detailed mapping will be done to see how these renewable-energy zones fit with existing transmission plans and wildlife protections.

Three of the Colorado zones along the Eastern Plains are valued for wind energy. The fourth, in south-central Colorado, is a potential solar-energy zone.

Mark Jaffe: 303-954-1912 or mjaffe@denverpost.com

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