Clean Line Energy Partners is building a wind monitoring network in Kansas to facilitate its plans to build a transmission line that will carry renewable energy to the St. Louis area.
And wind industry experts said the project could boost wind development in Oklahoma as well.
Clean Line President Michael Skelly said the installation of high tech wind monitors across six Kansas counties will help developers understand how the wind behaves over a large area.
“We know the resource is there,” he said. “We're just trying to characterize it.”
Houston-based Clean Line has planned a number of projects to move wind power to areas in need of such renewable resources, Skelly said. Clean Line's project list includes a proposed 800-mile transmission line across Oklahoma and Arkansas to the Memphis area.
Oklahoma State University professor Shannon Farrell said wind development spurs new projects in other states by creating competition to provide electrical power.
“That is a competition in which all of our energy resources, both fossil and renewable, vie for market share,” he said.
Farrell said another factor is often overlooked. “If surrounding states generate enough development, that development can lead to improvements in infrastructure, which may also attract more manufacturing of wind-related components and the building of human capital to support all aspects of the industry,” he said.
“In a rapidly-evolving industry such as wind power, progress begets progress and areas that do not work proactively to address both the advantages and challenges of wind development can be quickly left behind.”
Wind Coalition Executive Director Paul Sadler said transmission lines adequate to carry electricity in areas full of wind potential are vital for further development.
Texas, which is largely its own electrical grid, is in the midst of a massive 2,300-mile transmission line project that would allow the state to nearly triple the power it generates from wind, he said.
“It's the most expensive transmission project in the country,” said Sadler, a former Texas lawmaker.
He said Oklahoma and eight other states in the region are part of the Southwest Power Pool, which has approved a list of priority projects designed to boost the entire region's power grid to accommodate additional wind power.
“That transmission system is really the key to future development,” Sadler said. “If you have a strong grid then you have a better chance to attract manufacturing and jobs.”
Clean Line's Skelly said continued wind power development is expected to create an export market for that renewable resource — one his company is working to exploit.
The company's projects are meant to tap into the region's best available wind resources and move that renewable power to larger markets.
In Oklahoma, Clean Line is seeking utility status, a designation company officials insist is vital to the project. A hearing on that application is scheduled next month at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
Skelly said the company's other projects are on similar tracks, with the biggest variable being each state's permitting process.
“We've got to work with a lot of different people to get them comfortable with the projects,” he said.
Energy that's renewable
Houston's Clean Line Energy Partners is planning several projects to move wind power from resource-rich regions to more populated areas in need of renewable energy:
• Western Kansas to St. Louis
• Northwest Iowa to Chicago
• New Mexico to Southern California