DOE approves Oklahoma-Arkansas-Tennessee HVDC transmission line

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Friday was certainly good for a massive transmission project to transmit wind power, which awaited federal regulatory approval for nearly six years.

The U.S. Department of Energy approved a 700-mile high-voltage direct current transmission line that will bring wind power from western Oklahoma through Arkansas and Tennessee.

The Plains & Eastern Clean Line has cleared its most important federal regulatory hurdle to starting work on the $2.5 billion project. The Plains & Eastern Clean Line, which some have called the biggest wind transmission project in the nation, would move up to 4,000 MW of renewable power across several states, parent company Clean Line Energy Partners has said.

Michael Skelly, CEO of Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners, said the DOE approval means that construction should begin on the Plains & Eastern in 2017.

“The Department of Energy’s decision shows that great things are happening in America today. 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,” Skelly said after Friday’s decision by federal regulators. “We look forward to continuing to invest in this project so that thousands of people have jobs and millions of consumers benefit from the delivery of low-cost clean power.”

The decision outlines the roles of Clean Line and 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 low-cost, clean power.

As part of its decision, DOE requires that Clean Line implement environmental protection measures during the development, construction and operation of the project to minimize impacts to landowners and the environment.

“The DOE’s decision is a critical milestone that will open up the spigots for billions of dollars in private investment, economic opportunity in rural areas that need it most, and potential savings for American energy consumers. We applaud DOE for their leadership and for supporting a clean, affordable and reliable energy future,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “We were aware of many wind developers and manufacturers standing ready to get to work. With the path clear for infrastructure needed to get clean energy to market, those wind companies can now invest, build projects, and create jobs in the Oklahoma Panhandle region.”

In June 2010, DOE issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for New or Upgraded Transmission Line Projects to facilitate private sector participation in the development of new transmission. Clean Line Energy submitted an application in July of 2010 in response to this RFP for its Plains & Eastern Clean Line project. The Record of Decision marks the principal regulatory approval needed from DOE, Clean Line reported.

Proponents say the Plains & Eastern Clean Line will generate billions of dollars in economic and energy benefits for Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee. A delivery converter station in central Arkansas will deliver 500 MW of low-cost, clean power to Arkansas, enough electricity to power 160,000 Arkansas homes each year. The Plains & Eastern Clean Line also represents a direct investment of over $500 million dollars in Arkansas.

The Plains & Eastern Clean Line will also deliver 3,500 MW of low -cost renewable power to a delivery converter station located near Memphis, Tennessee, where the project will interconnect to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) system. This interconnection will allow that energy to reach millions of TVA customers and other consumers throughout the Southeast.

"The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is a unique opportunity for Tennessee,” Catherine Glover, President of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry/Tennessee Manufacturers Association, said. “Along with the $300 million direct investment, the state will also benefit from increased economic diversity, new jobs, and new tax revenue. This integral project will bring together private investment, proven technology, and public benefits to deliver renewable energy to Tennessee and the Southeast for decades to come.”

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