Friday, May 28, 2010

Company to Use Oklahoma Wind for Power-Hungry States

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Houston company has designs on building an 800-mile high-voltage transmission line to take wind energy from the Oklahoma Panhandle to power-hungry states in the Southeast.

An affiliate of Clean Line Energy Partners has applied to become a public utility in Arkansas. Company officials expect to file a similar application in Oklahoma on behalf of affiliate Plains & Eastern Clean Line LLC in the next couple of months, with an eye toward building a direct current transmission line from Texas County to near Memphis, Tenn.

"There is a tremendous untapped renewable energy resource in the Great Plains, but the infrastructure to move the electricity from the resource areas to consumers in the mid-South and Southeast regions is insufficient," Clean Line President Michael Skelly said last week as the Arkansas application was announced.

"This transmission line will provide a solution to that problem and will enable utilities in Arkansas and the Southeast to provide their customers with access to the most affordable clean energy available," he said.

The $3.5 billion project is in the early stages of development.

Officials hope the 7,000-megawatt transmission line will be operational by the end of 2015, but the schedule depends on permitting and environmental authorities.

The line will use high voltage direct current technology that Mario Hurtado, Clean Line's executive vice president of development, said is well suited to moving large amounts of power over distance with minimal loss.

"This is the only thing that we do," he said.

Transmission projects are typically done by utility companies interested in providing more reliable service to their customers, but independent transmission companies are becoming more common. A spokeswoman for the Southwest Power Pool said those companies are important to the region's power grid.

"Our region needs more electric transmission to maintain grid reliability and to bring economic benefits by improving access to the region's variety of generating resources such as wind, nuclear, natural gas and coal," spokeswoman Emily Pennel said. "Independent transmission companies offer additional opportunities to build new transmission that has been identified as needed in the region."

Oklahoma only has one other transmission company that has been granted utility status, as Clean Line intends to pursue.

Hurtado said Clean Line is looking to facilitate the development of renewable energy.

He said wind is the most commercially competitive source of renewable power.

"Our company is just focused on going from where there's a really strong wind resource ... to where there's demand," Hurtado said. "When you look at the map ... the Oklahoma Panhandle and the region around that is one of the richest veins, if you want to call it that, of wind."

"It's a relatively flat area with large open spaces."

Hurtado said Texas County is a natural choice to be the starting point for the new transmission line, citing Southwest Power Pool reports that about 10,000 megawatts worth of wind farms are in development within 100 miles of there.

"It's a good place to be," he said. "It's in the middle of a lot of very good prospects."

Those prospects are expected to develop into electrical power for states in the Southeast that have little access to renewable sources, Hurtado said.

"When you start to think about the kind of volumes you need ... the cheapest resource is really going to be the wind from Oklahoma Panhandle, southwestern Kansas, north Texas," he said. "That's why we thought this project ... makes a lot of sense."

Hurtado said there aren't any arrangements in place yet with wind developers or utility companies, but those will come.

"We're probably talking to every generation developer that's active in the Panhandle," he said.

There are a lot of developers working in the area, Hurtado said, noting the Southwest Power Pool's efforts to connect the region's wind resources to the areas that need that power.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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