U.S. to fund Western renewable energy zones, including hydro

The U.S. Department of Energy plans to spend up to $2.3 million on an effort by eleven U.S. states, one Mexican state, and two Canadian provinces to identify and develop zones of renewable energy resources, including hydroelectric and hydrokinetic power.

Subject to annual appropriations over three years, DOE is to support the Western Renewable Energy Zones project under a cooperative agreement with the Western Governors Association.

DOE said the program is to identify concentrations of viable renewable sources throughout the Western Interconnection grid system to benefit renewable energy developers, utilities, transmission providers, and state regulators. It said the program should lead to better-informed decisions on the costs of renewable power, and to development and siting of infrastructure, such as grid access, to support renewable sources of energy.

DOE said renewable energy developers could use the information to identify where they can site facilities to ensure access to transmission and to minimize environmental effects. Renewable resources could include hydroelectric, hydrokinetic, solar, geothermal, wind, and biomass sources.

The project is to involve four phases:
o Identification of high concentrations of developable renewable energy resources, or Renewable Energy Zones, in the Western Interconnection;
o Development of regional transmission plans to enhance access to renewable resources in the zones;
o Development of a transparent process for bringing together buyers and sellers of electricity generated from renewable energy sources; and
o Building interstate cooperation to address permitting and multi-state cost-allocation issues.

Factors to be considered include potential for development, timeframes, transmission needs, and costs. The governors association said the project will evaluate all feasible renewable resource technologies likely to help meet its goal of developing 30,000 MW of clean and diversified energy by 2015.

The initiative ultimately seeks to endorse development of a specified number of renewable megawatts in identified renewable energy zones, and the conceptual transmission plans needed to deliver renewable energy to load centers.

Participating governments in the Western Interconnection include Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming in the U.S.; Alberta and British Columbia in Canada; and Baja California in Mexico.

More information about the Western Renewable Energy Zones project is available on the Internet at www.westgov.org/wga/initiatives/wrez.

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