Big Sky Weekly Wire Services

BUTTE – NorthWestern Energy and the Bonneville Power Administration have agreed to explore collaboration on the Mountain States Transmission Intertie project.

According to Northwestern Energy, the proposed high voltage transmission line would allow the transfer of renewable and other energy sources from Montana, Idaho and other regional markets, and could allow BPA to serve customers in Idaho, western Wyoming and Montana and provide other operational benefits.

The agreement stipulates that by July 31, the two companies will have studied the project’s economic and engineering viability, capacity and cost. The outcome will determine whether BPA will consider future participation.

NorthWestern started environmental review of the 500-kilovolt project in summer 2008. The proposed line would extend from a new proposed substation five miles south of Townsend, Mont., to Idaho Power Company’s existing Midpoint Substation near Jerome, Idaho.

NorthWestern Energy anticipates the draft Environmental Impact Statement will be issued in mid-2012. NorthWestern also is planning to conduct an open season that will provide utilities, independent power producers and other interested parties an opportunity to subscribe capacity on the MSTI line.

NorthWestern expects the line will be energized in 2016.