Where Will We Put All the Powerline Corridors?

This article may be of interest from Smokey Wire folks….

Explore this gift article from The New York Times. You can read it for free without a subscription.

The Planet Needs Solar Power. Can We Build It Without Harming Nature?

Today’s decisions about how and where to set up new energy projects will reverberate for generations.


Some perspective: I live about 250 yards from a Bonneville Power Administration power line corridor that runs from The Dalles, Oregon, to Troutdale, known as Big Eddy–Troutdale No. 1. The corridor cuts across the Mt. Hood National Forest and a bit of private land for about 43 miles (measured via Google Earth Pro). Most of corridor was cleared of timber when it was built in the 1950s; these days, BPA crews regularly cut seedlings and shrubs and/or use herbicides on the brush before it grows tall enough to interfere with the lines. At roughly 375 feet wide, this section of the corridor is essentially a clearcut that covers about three square miles.

This article reports that, according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory 100% clean electricity study, 91,000 miles of new high voltage interregional transmission lines are needed by 2035 to carry “affordable, reliable clean energy.”

5 thoughts on “Where Will We Put All the Powerline Corridors?”

  1. Yes, and power companies are already going bankrupt from fires resulting from the transmission lines they already can’t afford to maintain. That’s why some form of nuclear around current coal plants and their transmission might be better and more doable. Too bad energy policy isn’t rational!

    • It may be that folks and orgs generally opposed to logging will grudgingly support clearing forests for power corridors for clean green energy.

  2. This is sort of a unique example, but it does indicate the role that national forests, and forest plans, may play. (I’d be interested in hearing about any utility corridors that were modified as a result of a forest plan, instead of the other way around.)

    “The National Nuclear Security Administration is proposing to build an energy transmission line that would run across the protected Caja del Rio wilderness in Northern New Mexico. (This is probably referring to the Caja del Rio Wildlife and Cultural Interpretive Management Area, but there is also a recommended wilderness adjacent to it.)

    Located on the lower end of the Santa Fe National Forest, the Caja del Rio, or the “box of the river” in its literal translation from Spanish, is over 100,000 acres of land dominated by piñon-juniper woodlands.

    That’s where the National Nuclear Security Administration wants to connect a new line from the PNM Norton power substation northwest of Santa Fe to LANL in the interest of “maintaining” and “enhancing” the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

    However, the project would require amending the recently revised Santa Fe National Forest Management plan to allow for a utility corridor through the Caja.

    James is skeptical of the legal process, which involves many federal agencies – including the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and the NNSA.”

    “But rarely do you find transmission planners looking at it on a holistic basis,” Kusik said. “They just look at it on a single project basis.”

  3. Also crazy to note how big environmental advocacy groups like Sierra Clib and Audubon have piled on to support this scale of development. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.


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