March 3, 2012

ITC picks contractor for Phase 1 of Thump Loop

By Kate Hessling, Assistant News Editor, 3 March 2012

UPPER THUMB – ITCTransmission officials announced Michigan-based MJ Electric LLC has been chosen to build the first section of the Thumb Loop high-voltage transmission line.

“I’m pretty excited that we’ve selected them,” Gregory Ioanidis told the Tribune.

Ioanidis, president of ITC Michigan, said ITC has had a long-standing relationship with M.J. Electric, which is based in Iron Mountain. He said the contractor has a good track record of completing a project on time and it has an exemplary safety record.

The Thumb Loop Project consists of about 140 miles of double-circuit 345,000 volt transmission lines and four new substations. It will serve as the “backbone” of a system designed to meet the identified maximum wind energy potential of the Thumb region and will be capable of supporting a maximum capacity of about 5,000 MW.

The cost of the project, which has been estimated at about $510 million, and will be paid by ratepayers in the 13 states in the Midwest ISO footprint. The Midwest ISO is the power grid operator for much of the U.S. Midwest.

Ioanidis said selecting a Michigan-based company was something ITC definitely looked at as it was selecting a contractor for Phase 1 construction. Phase 1 will extend about 62 miles from the site of the new Bauer substation in Tuscola Township, southwestern Tuscola County, to the new Rapson substation in Huron County, east of Bad Axe in Sigel Township.

ITCTransmission looked at a number of bidders for the project, and MJ Electric emerged as the top company, Ioanidis said.

“We are pleased that a Michigan company will be a key partner with ITC on this important regional transmission project,” he stated. “MJ Electric has completed projects for us safely, on time and on budget in the past and we’re confident they will continue that high level of performance on Phase 1 of the Thumb Loop.”

When asked whether any Thumb area businesses will be able to work on the project, Ioanidis indicated that is a possibility.

“Certainly, local businesses will see benefits from the work that will start there as crews are mobilized and begin working,” he said.

Joe Kirik, ITCTransmission senior capital communications specialist, said with projects like these, there is a certain amount of subcontracting with local businesses, such as with concrete suppliers or excavators.

Ed Farrington, senior vice president of M.J. Electric, stated the project will create about 50 positions during peak construction, and he noted it will require the support of ancillary businesses in the area.

Line construction on Phase 1 segment will begin this spring and continue into 2013. Crews will drill pole foundations, install steel monopole and lattice structures, and string conductors (wires) between the two substations. ITC officials told the Tribune crews will begin digging foundations the first week of April. Phase 1 of the Thumb Loop is expected to go into service in the latter part of 2013.

To construct the loop, ITC has had to work with landowners along the route to negotiate easement agreements and establish access points for equipment and materials along the 200-foot-wide transmission corridor. Ioanidis said the company is about two-thirds complete in obtaining right-of-ways and dealing with landowners for Phase 1.

“We’re well on track with respect to this first phase,” he said.

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