This blog is part of the Southern Wind Energy Association’s Windy Wednesday series leading up to the wind energy industry’s largest annual event, WINDPOWER 2016, being hosted in New Orleans May 23-26. Registration and details available here. You can read the other blogs in this series by clicking on #WindyWednesday. You can check out the Southern Wind Energy Association’s press statement on Clean Line’s project here.
Huge amounts of wind power may soon make its way to Arkansas, Tennessee and the rest of the Southeast. Last Friday, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) will be participating in a new transmission project that will deliver low-cost wind energy to our region. Over the past year, DOE has been doing its due diligence by reviewing the project’s technical and financial feasibility and determining whether the project is in the public interest. This thorough review is required under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Upon completion of this review, DOE has now issued a record of decision to approve Clean Line Energy Partner‘s transmission project.
In December of last year, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project was released and the DOE “did not identify widespread significant impacts as a result of construction or operations and maintenance of the Project.” The big announcement last Friday means the project has cleared another significant hurdle for Clean Line’s Plains and Eastern Project, which is one of five wind power transmission projects the company is developing to deliver huge quantities of low-cost wind power to states across the country.
The 700-mile Plains and Eastern Project is a proposed high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that will deliver 4,000 megawatts of wind energy from the Oklahoma panhandle region to a converter station in central Arkansas where 500 megawatts of wind power can be dropped off and delivered to the state. Then, the remaining 3,500 megawatts of wind energy will be delivered to Tennessee and made available to the rest of our Southeastern states. The 4,000 megawatts of power that will be produced by the project is equivalent to providing electricity for 1.5 million homes across our region – which is four times the output of the Hoover Dam annually!
With DOE’s approval, the time is ripe for utilities and businesses across the Southeast to ensure they will be beneficiaries of the project and enter into long-term power purchase agreements with Clean Line. The project is estimated to cost a mere 4-6 cents per kilowatt-hour at a fixed price. Because there is no fuel cost associated with wind energy, utilities can secure long-term contracts (~20-25 years) to lock in prices and protect their customers from price spikes due to volatile fossil fuel costs. Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, the Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are already purchasing over 3,000 megawatts of low-cost wind power. The Plains and Eastern project presents an opportunity to increase the amount of low-cost wind energy in these utilities’ portfolios and will save their customers money. Already, the city of Tallahassee has signed a deal for delivery of 50 megawatts of wind power from the Clean Line project.
In addition to bringing clean, affordable wind power to the South, the Plains and Eastern Project will also provide additional economic benefits by providing jobs to local employees and businesses to support the construction of the power line. Some of these economic benefits are already being realized. For example, Clean Line has contracted with Sediver, a business in West Memphis, Arkansas, to provide glass insulators for the project. General Cable in Malvern, Arkansas will manufacture high-voltage conductor cables to be used in the project. Going forward, the Plains and Eastern Line is estimated to create hundreds of construction jobs in western Tennessee as well. What’s more, Clean Line estimates that they will pay landowners in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee over $65 million for easements and structure payments.
With DOE’s approval and support last week, the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project is estimated to begin construction in 2017 and should take 2-3 years to complete. Clean Line’s transmission project is a no-brainer for our region. It will help protect natural resources, create tens of thousands of jobs, and provide health benefits by decreasing pollution from fossil-fuel generation in our region. We look forward to watching this project progress and help bring more clean energy and clean jobs to our region!