Connecting Oklahoma wind power to Tennessee is moving forward through the regulatory process, with the goal to start construction in 2015 on track, company officials said Wednesday.
Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, said the construction would take an additional two years, which would bring the project online later than the company had hoped.
“If you look at the other things that are happening with the export of wind energy, it’s a little later than we’d hope, but we think it makes sense,” Skelly told the Tulsa World. “You can’t really rush these things. You have to go through the process.”
A draft environmental impact statement is in the works, focusing on areas of concern that people who would be affected expressed as well as environmental partners such as the Nature Conservancy.
Eastern Clean Line wind energy transmission project would be a direct-current line from near Guymon to Memphis, Tenn. Power would be collected at wind farms in the Oklahoma Panhandle and transmitted across Oklahoma and Arkansas before connecting with the Tennessee Valley Authority and other southern utilities.
The proposed $2 billion project would move about 3,500 megawatts of power, enough to power about 1.3 million homes, Skelly said. The increase would more than double the amount of wind energy currently used by the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally owned corporation that provides power to much of the Southeast.
Representatives of Houston-based Clean Line Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy traveled the length of the proposed line earlier this year to hold public comment meetings to hear the concerns of residents, including meetings in Muskogee, Cushing and Enid.
Last month, a scoping summary report was issued, a collection of the public comment at those meetings. The list of concerns was extensive, but something that Clean Line and environmental leaders will thoroughly examine.
“What we look at is beyond that, like some of those critical habitats that could be overlooked in the federal process,” said Mike Fuhr, director of the Nature Conservancy in Oklahoma.
Skelly said infrastructure development at the beginning point of the line would spur more wind energy creation in the Panhandle. He said the wind farms aren’t there now, but that the line would create more development.
“It’s like on a highway: if you put a ramp here, you know you’re going to get development,” Skelly said. “The location of our on ramp will drive where development takes place.”
More wind projects have already been announced in western Oklahoma to export power, a new development in Oklahoma energy production, Skelly said.
“It’s a very familiar theme for the oil and gas world, but it’s interesting that it’s now taking place in the (wind) energy world as well,” Skelly said. “We like to think that what we’re doing is pretty timely.”
The draft environmental impact statement is expected possibly early next year, followed by another round of public meetings along the line to receive public feedback before the final impact statement is released.
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