Library filed under Transmission from Oklahoma
As Arkansas' congressional delegation stepped up its war Tuesday on a $2.5 billion wind-power transmission project, Clean Line Energy Partners has confirmed that it has shelved plans to string the controversial power line across Arkansas. Michael Skelly, the company's president, told Arkansas Business that the direct-current project, which would have transmitted 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy from Western Oklahoma to eastern Tennessee, is basically on life support.
The deal was sealed after it became apparent to Clean Line that TVA had little appetite to complete a six-year-old memorandum of understanding to purchase the project’s wind power. Late last year, just weeks after TVA said it was still studying whether to sign the contract, agency President Bill Johnson said the Clean Line project didn’t make economic sense, given TVA’s flat demand and ample generating capacity.
The nation's biggest wind generator, NextEra Energy Resources, has bought the Oklahoma portion of the proposed 700-mile-long Plains and Eastern Line to serve Oklahoma and Midwest customers. But for now, plans to bring wind energy from the windy areas of Oklahoma and Texas into the less-windy Tennessee Valley and Southeastern part of the United States are stalled and unlikely to be resurrected for years.
“There is no way any power transmission line coming out of the Panhandle is going to miss important prairie chicken habitat because the best prairie chicken habitat in Oklahoma is in Beaver County. There’s just no way to miss it,” she said. “It is an issue, but right now our main concerns are the bats and destroying their (hibernation area), the erosion it could cause and the idea of building a power line across this area with all these sinkholes.”
“Basically this decision says that Washington, D.C., knows more than the people of Arkansas do about whether to build across the state giant, unsightly transmission towers to carry a comparatively expensive, unreliable source of electricity to the Southeast where utilities may not need the electricity. This is the first time federal law has been used to override a state's objections to using eminent domain for siting electric transmission lines. It is absolutely the wrong policy.”
It comes down to whether TVA decides to step up its purchase of wind energy. Fracking has made natural gas abundant and cheap to burn in electric plants. Wind appears costly without tax breaks. But energy analysts figure gas prices eventually will rise. And long-term wind power contracts could lock in prices below the ultimate level gas reaches in a decade or more.
In 2012, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the company's $2 billion proposal to transmit wind power from the Great Plains to Memphis and the Southeast. That ruling authorized the Houston -based firm to begin negotiating transmission service agreements with potential buyers of the power, including TVA .
Billions of dollars in transmission lines will have to be built before the nation's wind resources, which are concentrated in the center of the country, can be fully exploited by large population centers to the east and west.
Deweese said he has had problems with energy companies running lines on his land in the past. Danny Feerer also had concerns. "I chose to live in the country, not in a city, and I don't want giant power lines running across my front door.
Clean Line still is working to gain regulatory approval for the project in Arkansas and Tennessee, Hurtado said. He said the route for the project has not been chosen but the company tentatively plans to begin construction in 2014.
With the deck stacked in favor of building, he said, if systems aren't designed to keep costs down, ratepayers will suffer the most. "I'm not opposed to building transmission lines, but right now it's sort of the gold rush," Springe said. "I'd like to see a few more checks and balances, and actually building in the least-cost way for customers."
Jimmy Glotfelty, Clean Line's executive vice president for external affairs, said he is optimistic commissioners will approve the company's application, which he admitted raises new issues for state regulators.
Clean Line Energy representatives hope to resolve a number of issues with landowners before they connect a transmission line to wind turbines in northwest Oklahoma. For that reason, company representatives have asked for and have been granted a continuance until early March on a hearing that would grant the Houston-based company public utility status in Oklahoma with Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
The Southern Great Plains Property Rights Coalition has reached an agreement to withdraw its challenge to Clean Line Energy's bid for utility status in Oklahoma, but coalition leaders said the group has not endorsed the company's application.
The Tennesseee Valley Authority favors a Houston company's effort to build an electrical connection between windmills in Oklahoma and Texas and power users in the Tennessee Valley. The proposed $3.5 billion project would use direct current rather than the alternating current.
While being grilled by Missouri regulators on the rising costs of planned transmission lines, Southwest Power Pool Inc.'s CEO and a senior vice president said Nov. 23 that they "don't know" why the initial cost estimates were not more rigorously examined for accuracy.
Clean Line's plan to transmit electricity for sale in other states "eliminates" it as a candidate for such status in Oklahoma, according to the OIPA motion. The groups also are concerned Clean Line is seeking utility status only so it can acquire condemnation powers.
We're not opposed to new energies, just the notion that taxpayers - and, potentially, a huge pool of rate payers - must subsidize their viability. Congress needs a thorough debate on this issue as well as other attempts to implement green and global warming policy through federal regulatory agencies.
That's because general plans for the 345-kilovolt route, known as the V-Plan and including a connecting line into Oklahoma, appear to take the line through prime nesting and breeding habitat for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken in both states. With an estimated two-thirds of the unique bird's original habitat already eliminated by development, officials warn that further encroachment could place the bird on the nation's endangered species list.
The application is an important first step in developing the line, which is designed to bring 7,000 megawatts in potential wind energy from the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas to Tennessee and markets in the Southeast. The project could take up to seven years to complete and cost $3.5 billion, according to Clean Line LLC.