Barely a month after winning approval from Tennessee regulators, a Houston firm’s plans to transmit wind power 700 miles from the Oklahoma panhandle to a site near Millington will be the focus of a public hearing hosted by federal officials this week.
The U.S. Department of Energy scheduled the hearing for 5-8 p.m. Thursday in the Harvell Civic Center, 8077 Wilkinsville Road, Millington, to give area residents a chance to review and comment on the draft environmental impact statement for the planned Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project. DOE is accepting comments on the draft statement through March 19.
Costing about $2 billion, the project by Clean Line Energy would deliver 3, 500 megawatts of power – three times the amount generated by Hoover Dam, and enough to serve a million homes – from wind turbines near Guymon, Oklahoma, to a station in northern Shelby County. From there, the electricity would be sent onto the Tennessee Valley Authority grid, which provides wholesale power to Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division and more than 150 other utilities, and possibly additional customers in the Southeast.
Clean Line Energy also would deliver 500 megawatts of power to customers in Central Arkansas.
Company officials say the project will provide affordable renewable energy created without the pollution – including emissions of carbon dioxide and sulfur and nitrogen compounds – associated with fossil-fuel plants.
The project addresses a major challenge for wind power: The areas where turbines can generate the most electricity, such as the Great Plains, tend to lie hundreds of miles from the population centers that could use the power.
“The existing grid wasn’t built to move all this energy from west to east,” said Mario Hurtado, executive vice president of Clean Line Energy.
The power would be transmitted on overhead lines using direct-current electricity, which doesn’t require nearly as much right of way as traditional alternating-current systems. Still, the proposal has met with some opposition from landowner groups in Arkansas.
The last 17 miles of the west-to-east transmission system would cut across parts of Tipton and Shelby counties. Hurtado said the company will offer a “market-leading compensation plan” to acquire easements from landowners. Clean Line Energy will focus on trying to obtain easements from willing owners instead of using eminent domain, he said.
The project already has cleared some regulatory hurdles. In 2012, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that Clean Line Energy could begin negotiating transmission service agreements with potential buyers of the power, including TVA. And in January, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority certified that the company can operate as a transmission utility in the state. “That’s a really important step forward for the project,” Hurtado said.
Last year, the Economic Development Growth Engine board for Memphis & Shelby County approved an 11-year payment-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) for Clean Line Energy in return for the firm’s investment of $259 million, most of it for a station that will convert the direct-current power to alternating current electricity for use on the TVA grid.
Hurtado said the firm hopes to begin construction in 2016 and begin delivering power by the end of 2018.
TVA officials have been working with Clean Line Energy to determine the feasibility of the project.
“It’s got to be cost-effective, and we have to be able to safely integrate it into our grid,” said TVA spokesman Chris Stanley.
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