Proposed routes for a $700 million wind power transmission project could pass through the Golden Triangle and generate hundreds of construction jobs.
Southern Cross Transmission, a subsidiary of Pattern Energy Group, is in the early planning phases of a 400-mile, 500 kilovolt transmission line from west Louisiana to east Mississippi.
Denton Gibbes, a Southern Cross Transmission spokesperson, said the company is still working to determine a final route for the transmission line. The project website says a final route should be selected by December 2016.
Gibbes said construction on the project is planned to begin in 2018, and the project is scheduled for completion in 2021.
He said the project should generate about 300 temporary construction jobs, 30 permanent jobs at the converter stations, and about a dozen permanent jobs for maintenance along the line.
Proposed routes show the line could pass through Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties. The line will be bookended by converter stations, the locations of which are to be determined.
Southern Cross Transmission is sending notifications to landowners across the state who own property within 500 feet of a potential line route to invite them to open house meetings where they will have a chance to offer input for the project.
Most of the proposed routes pass through Caledonia, around Columbus Air Force Base and continue west toward West Point before going through northern Oktibbeha County.
In the Golden Triangle, an open house meeting is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. June 30 at West Point’s civic center, at 204 Commerce Street.
“This is a part of that process, to give landowners an opportunity to have their concerns voiced and taken into consideration,” Gibbes said.
Mississippi Public Service Commissioner for the Northern District Brandon Presley said Southern Cross transmission hasn’t submitted an application to the commission yet, but will likely do so by September. Once they have, he said the commission will hold public hearings to allow citizens further chances for input before the project is approved.
According to project information on Southern Cross Transmission’s website, the company will attempt to work with landowners to obtain right-of-way on property when needed. However, the company does note that it may attempt to use eminent domain as a last resort if needed.
Presley said that couldn’t be triggered without the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s authority, and that he’s encouraging the company to make the process as amenable as possible for landowners.
“I have admonished the company that they need to work with the landowners and obviously it’s in their interest to find a route that’s not controversial,” Presley said.
Still, once Southern Transmission Company files its application with the commission, Presley said the public will have a chance to raise objections.
“I would hope the company could work all that out ahead of time and file a clean application,” he said. “If there are objections, we want to hear those.”
Gibbes said the transmission line will carry power across Mississippi and Louisiana, making wind power available for local utility companies.
Presley said it’s important the power is made available to local utilities.
“Obviously we don’t want this line to just come through Mississippi and deliver power to the east coast,” he said.
Presley said the line will allow the state to take advantage of certified renewable energy zones in Texas to help diversify its power generation options.
“Right now, statewide, we’re heavily reliant on coal, natural gas and nuclear power,” Presley said. “So far, wind has just not really taken off. This would very much be an anchoring point for wind energy in Mississippi if you’ve got this major, major transmission line coming through the state.”
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