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Tennessee Valley Authority move demonstrates market for Clean Line project

Jay F. Marks Published: November 14, 2013

The Tennessee Valley Authority on Thursday announced plans to retire coal plants that generate more than 3,000 megawatts of electricity.

The move seems to prove there is a market for Clean Line Energy Partners, which plans to build a $2 billion direct-current transmission line across Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The Plains and Eastern Clean Line would connect with the TVA system at Memphis, Tenn., carrying enough electricity to power 1 million homes a year.

TVA provides power for 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states.  The government-owned utility is looking to diversity its power generating mix, as evidenced by its move away from coal.

“This will support our focus on cleaner energy and bring additional, necessary balance into our portfolio for managing our current and projected load profile,” CEO Bill Johnson told TVA’s board.

Clean Line officials have said the planned transmission line across Oklahoma will spur the development of more than $7 billion in wind projects in the Panhandle area.

Clean Line and TVA signed a memorandum of understanding in 2011 on the benefits of the project.

Mario Hurtado, Clean Line’s executive vice president of development, said TVA’s move away from coal is part of a larger trend by utility companies looking to reduce emissions and replace their aging generating fleets. Many also are looking to add cleaner energy sources, like wind.

He said Clean Line officials continue to talk to their counterparts at TVA about how the direct-current line would link up with the utility’s transmission system.

Clean Line is helping TVA with an update to its integrated resources plan by providing information about Oklahoma’s wind resources, while TVA is taking part in an environmental review of the Clean Line project.

Hurtado said he is pleased by the progress Clean Line has made so far.

He said the construction of the 750-mile transmission line could begin in 2016, meaning it could be operational by the end of 2018.