Clean Line Energy Partners said Tuesday it has secured a $40 million investment in the development of its four high-voltage, direct-current transmission line projects from National Grid USA.
Clean Line, whose planned Plains and Eastern project will take electricity from Oklahoma Panhandle wind farms to Tennessee utilities, said the equity investment gives National Grid two of its five board seats. Clean Line will retain management and development of its four transmission line projects.
Michael Skelly, Clean Line's president, said the investment gives Clean Line access to expertise from National Grid, which has developed several high-voltage, direct-current transmission projects in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.
“They have a lot of experience with HVDC, they have tremendous technical knowledge, operational expertise, execution capabilities and financial heft,” Skelly said in a conference call. “We think our time and effort and the team we've put together around our projects, along with National Grid's significant and complementary resources, is just going to be a tremendous match for our organization.”
National Grid runs several natural gas and electricity companies in the United Kingdom. Its U.S. subsidiary includes electric and gas utilities in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.
Tom King, National Grid USA president, said his company is committed to developing a diverse energy mix, including renewable resources such as wind. That also includes investments in infrastructure and modernizing the electric grid.
“We're very impressed with the Clean Line team, and we're very impressed with the projects and the models they've used to develop those projects,” King said. “We think by bringing National Grid's financial backing, as well as transmission expertise, we'll create that new paradigm and together move forward to ensure that we can secure these projects to make sure they're built.”
A subsidiary of National Grid USA will make the $40 million equity investment in Clean Line with corporate funds. The subsidiary is separate from its regulated utilities in the United States and the United Kingdom. The transaction also will give National Grid an option to make additional investments in Clean Line or its transmission projects.
“There isn't a silver bullet out there relative to resources and energy needs,” King said. “We need to be developing and investing in it all. ... This project is an example of ensuring that the infrastructure and development of those resources in the future are available and being invested in now to be available in the future.”
Clean Line's progress
The 750-mile Plains and Eastern Clean Line transmission project is expected to be in operation by 2017. Clean Line representatives continue to meet with local officials and community leaders in more than 30 counties across Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee to find the best route for the $2 billion transmission line.
Other high-voltage, direct-current transmission projects by Clean Line would take renewable energy power from northern Plains states to Chicago; from Kansas to eastern Missouri; and from New Mexico to California.
Skelly said Clean Line's four projects are moving along, albeit at different rates because of permitting and regulatory processes.
“We learn a lot from all of our different projects, and we work very hard to make sure the knowledge we gain in putting together one project is reflected in efforts we undertake elsewhere,” Skelly said. “It's too early to tell, but maybe in a year or year and a half, we'll have a better sense of which one is first to market.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this year approved applications for two of the Clean Line projects to sell transmission line capacity to utilities and renewable-energy providers.