Clean Line Energy’s Plains & Eastern Line $2.5 billion transmission project — which will deliver electricity generated by wind energy projects in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandle area throughout the southeastern US — was recently approved by the US Department of Energy, according to reports.
This means that the Department of Energy will be participating in the development of the project by securing rights of way, among other things. This marks the first time that the Department of Energy (DOE) has utilized the congressional authority bestowed as part of Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 with the intent of promoting transmission development.
The Plains & Eastern transmission line project will, if completed, allow for the delivery of up to 4,000 megawatts (MW) of wind project electricity generation capacity in Oklahoma — via a 705-mile direct current transmission line — throughout the south and southeastern US. That’s equivalent to roughly 4 times the electricity generation output of the Hoover Dam.
“The US Department of Energy’s decision is a critical milestone that opens the door for billions of dollars in private investment. The project supports economic opportunity often in rural areas that need it most and potential energy bill savings for Americans,” stated Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “This approval exemplifies DOE’s strong leadership in supporting a clean, affordable and reliable energy future. “Over 99% 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.”
The project is expected to spur more than $7 billion in new wind energy project development in the region in the coming years. Another benefit is that southeastern states are being given a more cost-effective means of complying with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
The approval follows a review process that began all the way back in 2010, and has featured more than 15 public meetings to date. The review process has resulted in a number of protections being put into place for ratepayers, landowners, and taxpayers in the affected region. This includes (courtesy of a recent press release from the US DOE):
- The federal government will only exercise eminent domain as a last resort — after the project has met significant milestones to prove its viability — and the process will provide every opportunity for the land owner to maximize the value of their land in a transparent and fair manner
- DOE will enter an agreement with Clean Line that ensures that all of DOE’s costs will be paid by Clean Line in advance and that Clean Line will contribute 2% of project revenues to offset the cost of federal hydropower infrastructure improvements
- In response to public input, the Clean Line project will include a 500 megawatt converter station in Arkansas to ensure that consumers in the state can benefit from the renewable energy delivered by the project
- Protections have been built into the participation agreement to ensure that no liability falls on the ratepayers if the project were ever to fail
- Clean Line will also make payments to counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma for land and assets owned by the federal government that would otherwise be taxable
The Plains and Eastern Clean Line project is currently expected to begin construction either later in 2016 or in 2017.
Image Credit: American Wind Energy Association/AWEA
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