The Department of Energy will participate in the development of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Project, a major clean energy infrastructure project, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz announced Friday.
The project will tap low-cost wind generation resources in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandle regions to deliver up to 4,000 megawatts of wind power via a 705-mile direct current transmission line — enough energy to power more than 1.5 million homes in the mid-South and Southeast U.S.
“Now that this project is approved this transformational project is going to play an important role in helping bring America’s energy infrastructure into the 21st century,” Clean Line President Michael Skelly said in a press tele-conference. “We’re gratified by this decision.”
This marks the first use of congressional authority conferred to the DOE as part of Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 with the objective of promoting transmission development.
“Moving remote and plentiful power to areas where electricity is in high demand is essential for building the grid of the future,” Moniz said in a news release. “Building modern transmission that delivers renewable energy to more homes and businesses will create jobs, cut carbon emissions, and enhance the reliability of our grid.”
The project will, if built, address infrastructure challenges outlined in the 2015 Quadrennial Energy Review, which focused on energy transmission, storage and distribution infrastructure. The QER found that new long-distance transmission capacity like Clean Line has the potential to enable lower-carbon electricity, enhance system reliability and operate at a reasonable cost to consumers.
The Arkansas congressional delegation — Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Reps. Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman, all Republicans — issued the following statement in response to the announcement:
“Today marks a new page in an era of unprecedented executive overreach as the Department of Energy seeks to usurp the will of Arkansans and form a partnership with a private company — the same private company previously denied rights to operate in our state by the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Despite years of pushback on the local level and continuous communications between our delegation and Secretary Moniz, DOE has decided to forgo the will of the Natural State and take over the historic ability of state-level transmission control through this announcement.
“We now will begin the process of careful review over DOE’s decision and will continue to address our concerns through any avenue necessary …
“It is our firm belief that the DOE has overstepped its bounds, and reversing this decision through the passage of the APPROVAL Act remains a top priority.”
The Southern Wind Energy Association voiced its support for the decision.
"The Southeast is a new frontier for wind energy. Importing high-quality wind energy resources into the region provides low-cost, clean energy to ratepayers in the Southeast," said Simon Mahan, director of the SWEA. "Continued support for high voltage DC transmission lines, such as Plains and Eastern, will allow for the import of wind energy and helps to open the Southeast market to the wind industry.”
The project is expected to create supply chain jobs in Arkansas and Oklahoma to build the new infrastructure that will be constructed, operated and maintained in both states. Clean Line has announced a $300 million agreement with Pelco, an Oklahoma company, to build the project’s tubular steel transmission structures. Clean Line has also identified three Arkansas companies to build infrastructure that supports the project, such as transmission conductors and glass insulators.
Before obtaining land for the project from landowners, commercial viability will need to be demonstrated. This means Clean Line will need to execute significant firm transmission service agreements and complete key technical studies required by the Southwest Power Pool, Midcontinent Independent System Operator and Tennessee Valley Authority.