View an interactive map of a better alternative
There are multiple ways to improve energy reliability in the San Luis Valley and increase energy transmission capacity. Despite this fact, the utilities failed to study a single alternative other than their misguided proposal.
If they did the kind of study they should, they would find that some solutions don’t even require a new transmission line at all. They would also find that, if a new line is to be constructed, there are economic, environmental and transmission benefits with building the line in a different direction than east from Alamosa.
Below are just a few alternatives that warrant consideration. There are likely more.
- New Line to the North – We had a national energy-transmission expert evaluate various options for a new line from Alamosa to Poncha Springs. He found a number of options that would solve the reliability need in the San Luis Valley and easily accommodate the levels of new energy generation previously proposed by the utilities. Rather than carving up a pristine landscape, the solution maximizes an existing transmission corridor. Costing $50 million less than the utilities’ proposal, this solution would also be better for your energy bill. Previous Tri-State studies found no fatal flows with this solution.
- Replace an Existing Line to the North – There are already three transmission lines connecting Alamosa to Poncha Springs. One of these lines could be upgraded to accommodate more energy. This would increase reliability of these lines and increase transmission capacity without needing to construct any new lines.
- Modular Solar Development – Rather than pursuing huge industrial-scale solar developments in the San Luis Valley, a modular approach to using smaller developments could have many advantages. Recent difficulties with the technology used to generate and store industrial-scale solar energy indicate that more research and development of this new technology is needed. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission’s top renewable energy expert actually favors a more phased approach and we agree that it warrants more study. If the existing system can accommodate a phased approach, why expend tens of millions of ratepayer dollars for a transmission line to export solar generation using uncertain, speculative technologies?
- Minor System Upgrades – There are minor improvements to the existing transmission system that the utilities need to make. Following through on these upgrades alone will increase transmission capabilities for the region. There are other minor upgrades (e.g. adding a new transformer at Poncha) that could also improve energy reliability for the San Luis Valley.
- New Line to the South – The state of Colorado has already approved a large new transmission line south from the San Luis Valley to Taos, New Mexico. A new line to the south would likely provide greater reliability for the San Luis Valley and also increase the region’s transmission capacity. That initial state approval came in the mid-1980s, but as recently as 2008, Tri-State evaluated a similar line and found no fatal flaws with it. Obviously the utilities never built this line, but it remains another viable alternative that should be evaluated.
These options above don’t even consider other initiatives like distributed energy generation efforts (e.g. biomass energy production, rooftop solar). While it is not likely that smaller generation projects like these efforts provide could solve the entire problem, they certainly can help and would be a terrific addition to a larger project.