The Houston-based firm planning a $2 billion project to transmit wind energy into the Memphis area and the Southeast will host a series of open-house sessions early next month to explain the proposal to the public.
Clean Line Energy has scheduled meetings for Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 in Osceola, Ark., and Munford and Atoka in Tipton County. All three towns lie along the prospective path of transmission lines that would carry wind power from the Oklahoma panhandle and adjacent areas of Kansas and Texas to a Tennessee Valley Authority station in northern Shelby County.
The project received a major boost in September when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that Clean Line Energy could begin negotiating transmission service agreements with potential buyers of the power, including TVA.
“Now it’s time to come to the public to let the public see this,” said Max Shilstone, director of business development for Clean Line Energy.
The company plans to transmit 3,500 megawatts of wind power – enough electricity to serve 1 million homes – along a 750-mile overhead high-voltage, direct current line.
From the Memphis site, the power would be sent onto the TVA system, which supplies wholesale electricity to Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division and more than 150 other utilities, and possibly transmitted to other customers in the Southeast.
Construction is expected to begin by 2015, with commercial operation starting two years later.
The open-house sessions will give the company a chance to discuss with area landowners the potential routing options for power lines, Shilstone said.
Compared to the traditional alternating-current transmission lines, the direct-current system requires a relatively small “footprint” of 150 feet in width, he said. That’s less than half the right-of-way that would be needed for an alternating-current line carrying the same amount of power.
The poles or towers would be 150 to 180 feet tall, Shilstone said.
The project would yield major economic benefits for the area, including hundreds of construction jobs in West Tennessee, according to the company. Most of the work would occur in Shelby County, where an approximately $250 million station would be built to convert the direct-current wind power for use on the alternating-current of the electrical grid.
TVA officials say they have been working with Clean Line Energy on the project, but they have not signed any agreement to buy power from the firm.
The proposal has attracted strong support from some environmental groups.
“We’re actually very bullish on this project,” said Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Knoxville-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
The project is attractive from both an environmental and economic viewpoint, Smith said. It could provide the region with clean energy while allowing TVA to reap millions of dollars in revenues by “wheeling” some of the power to other utilities.
“I can’t say enough positive about it,” Smith said. “We don’t see any negatives.”
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