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Thumb Loop will begin next month

TUSCOLA COUNTY – Now that some wind turbines have been approved in Tuscola County, the next step is constructing a transmission system to distribute the electricity they will generate.

Although the construction start of Tuscola County’s first wind turbines Gilford Township is still months away, ITC (International Transmission Company) will start construction of the “Thumb Loop” distribution system next month.

“We’ll be starting construction of the Bauer substation in Tuscola Township the first week of April and working our way northeast through Tuscola County into Huron County,” said ITC Transmission’s Communication Specialist Joe Kirik.

M.J. Electric, LLC, Iron Mountain, will build the first phase of Thumb Loop high-voltage transmission line which will be a double-circuit, 345,000-volt (345 kV) line. The line will extend about 62 miles from the Bauer substation site in Tuscola Township, southwest to the new Rapson substation in Huron County east of Bad Axe in Sigel Township.

“M.J. Electric has a strong track record in transmission line construction with ITC and throughout the utility industry,” said Gregory Ioanidis, president of ITC Michigan. “They also have a well-earned reputation for on-the-job safety, which is a top priority for ITC.

“M.J. 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 one of the Thumb Loop.”
It will take about a year to complete that segment of the four-substation project.

“Crews will drill pole foundations, install steel monopole and lattice structures, and string conductors (wires) between the two substations,” said Kirik.

Although some landowners had initially opposed the project, issues have been resolved.

“ITC worked with landowners along the route to negotiate easement agreements and establish access points for equipment and materials along the 200-foot-wide transmission corridor,” said Kirik.

According to ITC officials, the Thumb Loop project is on schedule because of “great cooperation and coordination” from landowners, local officials and wind energy developers.

The Thumb Loop project consists of approximately 140 miles of double-circuit 345,000 volt (345 kV) 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,” explained Kirik. “As an important link in the high-voltage transmission system in Michigan and the region, it also will contribute to reducing congestion, improving system reliability and facilitating wholesale market competition.”

The additional lines and facilities will be needed in the future as wind generators go into service and connect to the backbone system.

The Thumb Loop is the result of Michigan’s Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act of 2008. The act requires 10 percent of the energy in the state come from renewable fuels by 2015. When completed, the loop will be the “energy superhighway” for wind farm development in the Thumb.

“Work will be done in stages with the first segment, the western side of the loop from Tuscola County to Huron County,” said Kirik. “The remainder are targeted for completion by 2015.”

Other phases of the Thumb Loop Project include construction of substations in Sanilac and in St. Clair County. Overall about 140 miles of transmission line will be developed.

“In addition to creating approximately 50 positions during peak construction, this project will require the support of ancillary businesses in the area,” Ed Farrington, senior vice president of M.J. Electric.

ITC Transmission is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ITC Holdings Corp., which is the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company. The company is based in Novi, Michigan.

ITC owns, operates and maintains approximately 2,800 circuit miles of transmission line in southeast Michigan, serving a population of 5.1 million. For more information, visit http://www.itctransco.com.