GeoWorld August 2011

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ENERGY CORRIDOR: A designation applied to federal lands preferred for the construction, operation or upgrade of one or more energy-transmission projects. No construction, upgrade or operation may occur without an authorized right-of-way and appropriate environmental review. designation of more than 6,000 miles of energy cor- ridors in the 11 western states (see Figure 1). These corridors were identified through an envi- ronmental-assessment process that culminated in a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that presented the data, analysis and conclusions of the process used to select the corridor locations. The corridors couldn't have been designated in a timely manner without the use of GIS technology and GIS- based datasets addressing environmental, social and regulatory issues associated with corridor designation. Benefits of designating energy corridors include reduc- Figure 1. Final designated energy corridors were created using GIS technology. ing the time needed to site projects, improved coordina- tion of planning efforts across multiple agencies and jurisdictions, and encouraging project co-location to reduce impacts on sensitive resources. particularly solar and wind energy, often in areas far removed from existing electricity-transmission infra- structure and energy-consumption areas. A Delicate Balance Maintaining a large electrical generation, transmission and consumption system is a delicate balancing act. At every moment, total generation output must equal total demand to avoid brownouts or outages. One aspect of maintaining the balance relies on several types of generating units, some providing steady base loads as the backbone of the system, some for peak loads for high-demand periods, and others for interme- diate loads to balance the transitions between base and peak loads. Large-capacity renewable energy plants represent a new category—intermittent generation—that depends on variable energy sources. For example, when the sun sets in Arizona or the winds stop blowing in Iowa, some other generation unit(s) must pick up the load to keep the system balanced, and the transmission infrastructure in that part of the grid must be robust and extensive enough to carry the load. To begin addressing the need for new and upgraded transmission lines, Congress directed federal agencies to designate energy corridors on lands they administer. Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 led to the Figure 2. A four-step process was used to determine corridor locations. AUGUST 2O11 / WWW . GEOPLA CE . COM 23

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