The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a record of decision to approve the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project, which would deliver 4 GW of wind energy from the Oklahoma Panhandle region to customers in Arkansas, Tennessee, and other states in the Mid-South and Southeast.
According to Clean Line Energy Partners, the DOE’s decision – following six years of study and evaluation – marks a critically important step toward the construction of the company’s proposed project.
“The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is the largest clean energy infrastructure project in the nation and will modernize the U.S. electric grid while bringing forth new investment, job creation and more low-cost power for American consumers,” states Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy. “After several years of extensive evaluation, we now have the major regulatory approvals in place to begin construction in 2017.”
Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), calls the decision “a critical milestone that opens the door for billions of dollars in private investment.”
“Over 99 percent of all installed utility-scale wind capacity is located in rural areas. By building more projects like this, we’ll be putting America’s abundant untapped wind resources to use,” he explains.
Clean Line says the decision outlines the roles of the company and the DOE in the project, identifies a route for the interstate direct-current transmission line, and confirms the beginning point of the project in Oklahoma and a converter station in Arkansas that will deliver 500 MW of power. As part of its decision, the DOE requires that Clean Line implement environmental-protection measures during the development, construction and operations of the project in order to minimize impacts to landowners and the environment.
According to the DOE, this decision marks the first use of congressional authority conferred to the agency as part of Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
AWEA explains that Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was signed by President George W. Bush to address the nation’s changing energy needs; specifically, Section 1222 is intended to foster private- and public-sector cooperation to build new transmission projects.
In addition, says the DOE, the project would address infrastructure challenges outlined in the agency’s 2015 Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), which acknowledged the importance of establishing transmission lines to facilitate remote generation development of renewable energy. The QER found that new, long-distance transmission capacity has the potential to enable lower-carbon electricity, enhance system reliability and operate at a reasonable cost to consumers.
Clean Line has announced a $300 million agreement with Oklahoma-based Pelco to build the project’s tubular steel transmission structures. Clean Line has also identified three Arkansas companies to build infrastructure that supports the project, such as transmission conductors and glass insulators.
Before obtaining land for the project from landowners, the DOE notes, the company will need to demonstrate commercial viability of the project: e.g., executing significant firm transmission service agreements and completing technical studies required by the Southwest Power Pool, Midcontinent Independent System Operator and Tennessee Valley Authority.
“Moving remote and plentiful power to areas where electricity is in high demand is essential for building the grid of the future,” notes Ernest Moniz, DOE secretary. “Building modern transmission that delivers renewable energy to more homes and businesses will create jobs, cut carbon emissions and enhance the reliability of our grid.”
Photo courtesy of AWEA