A study commissioned by MidAmerican Energy of Des Moines and its partner in a proposed transmission line to ship wind energy from Iowa eastward says that an 8,000 mile line could be built between central North Dakota into Ohio at a cost between $20 billion and $25 billion.
When completed by the year 2025, the transmission line would be able to ship up to 56.8 gigawatts (1 gigawatt equals 1 billion watts) of wind generation within the study area that includes Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri, Michigan and Ohio.
This translates into enough energy to power more than 15 million households.
MidAmerican, which serves 770,000 Iowa gas and electric customers, is joined in the project by partner AEP of Columbus, O. plus Exelon Corp. of Chicago, North Western Energy of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska and Xcel Energy of Minnesota.
MidAmerican Energy is already the largest investor-owned utility wind provider, with about 1,300 megawatts of wind turbine generation already in place in Iowa and another 1,000 megawatts approved a year ago by the Iowa Utilities Board.
Maps on the study show the line beginning in North Dakota and forming a hub in central South Dakota. It would enter Iowa in two places, one near Sioux City and the other through Osceola County. The lines would join in Pocahontas County and split again, one going east through Wright and Buchanan counties and leave Iowa near the Quad Cities. The other would move south through Greene and Adair Counties, then head east through Hills south of Iowa City and proceed on to cross the Mississippi River south of the Quad Cities.
A prime target for the line would be the metropolitan Chicago area, but it would extend south to the Kansas City area and beyond Chicago into Wisconsin, southern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Lisa Barton, chairman of the MidAmerican-AEP joint venture for the line, said ”
Throughout the study process, we’ve met with representatives from the regional transmission organizations, including Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, PJM Interconnection, the Mid-Continent Area Power Pool and the Southwest Power Pool, to ensure they understood the intent and focus of the study. We will share the final report with them so that the SMARTransmission study results can be considered in their long-term transmission planning processes.”
The MidAmerican/AEP proposal is the only wind transmission plan. ITC Holdings of Michigan, which owns and operates Alliant Energy’s transmission sysstem in Iowa, already as preliminary approval from federal regulators to approach investors about a similar line from the Dakotas through Iowa across the Mississippi River to serve urban markets to the east.
Both the MidAmerican and ITC lines would, if built, fulfill the dream of Iowans from Gov. Chet Culver on down of making the state into an energy exporter similar to the way Texas and Oklahoma long have exported their oil and gas.
But beyond the engineering studies and approvals by the various regional transmission organizations and state and federal reglators is the larger tug-of-war that has developed between the Midwest and the East Coast over wind generation.
Last week Google and a Wall Street investment firm announced plans for a wind farm off the Atlantic Coast between New York and Virginia. Earlier this year Massachusetts regulators gave long-delayed approval to a wind farm off the coast of Nantucket.
At the same time eastern politicians, utilities and regulators have formed an advocacy organization, the Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy, whose objective is to push back against Midwest proposals to allocate some of the costs of the Midwestern-based transmission line to easterners who might use the electricity.
Beyond the regional tug-of-war is the subdued state of wind energy in the marketplace. Cheaper natural gas has become the favored fuel for electric utilities and because it is cleaner than coal and unlike wind, can be stored.
The chief financial officer of General Electric said Friday that the wind market “had collapsed” in the last year as GE’s orders for wind equipment have fallen by 15 percent.
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