A planned transmission line that would take wind power directly from Oklahoma to Tennessee has yet to clear state and federal regulatory hurdles but has begun lining up potential suppliers.
Clean Line Energy Partners' Plains and Eastern project would span more than 800 miles from western Oklahoma to western Tennessee. The company hopes to begin construction by 2014 and be ready to transmit electricity by 2017, said Phillip Teel, regional outreach manager for Clean Line.
Clean Line hopes to help solve a longtime problem in the energy business: getting power from its source to those who need it. With wind, that means sending the excess generating capacity in Oklahoma and other Plains states to consumers on the East and West coasts.
“We're just connecting a source with a market,” Teel said.
For Oklahoma, the project could mean an additional $14 billion in wind farm investments in the state, he said.
“There's a lot of potential out there and there's about 15 or 20 developers that would start building tomorrow if this project goes,” said Teel, who gave an update on the project Wednesday. “We think as a result of this project, there will be between 3,000 and 4,000 new windmills in the panhandle of Oklahoma.”
The project would allow up to 3,500 megawatts of electricity to be sent along high-voltage, direct-current transmission lines from Oklahoma's Panhandle through Arkansas and into Tennessee for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Clean Line would make money by charging a tariff, similar to a toll, for transmission from electricity producers to utilities.
Teel said Clean Line already has agreements with Claremore-based Pelco Structural LLC to manufacture the monopoles for the transmission lines. The company has a similar agreement with a company in Arkansas, General Cable, for the cable in the project. Fluor Corp. has been selected as the general contractor.
Clean Line last year became one of two “transmission-only” public utilities in Oklahoma after a 15-month application process before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Another company, ITC Great Plains, became a transmission-only public utility in 2008.
Teel said Clean Line's Oklahoma utility designation is the first in several regulatory steps for the project. After an initial rejection by Arkansas regulators, the company intends to refile its application with the state's Public Service Commission. Arkansas law requires transmission projects to serve residents in the state.
Clean Line's Plains and Eastern project also needs approval by Tennessee, the federal government and Southwest Power Pool, which manages the regional electricity grid in Oklahoma and six other states. In the meantime, Teel said the company has been reaching out to landowners, tribes and environmental groups to keep them updated on plans for the project.
“The challenges are regulatory, all the way from federal to state and local,” Teel said. “What makes this challenging is that this has never been done before. Not only are we going from state to state to state, but we're also going from grid to grid.”
The Plains and Eastern project is one of four similar renewable energy transmission projects planned by Houston-based Clean Line. Others would transmit power from northern Plains states to Chicago; from Kansas to eastern Missouri; and from New Mexico to California.