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U.S. Department of Energy Releases Draft EIS on Transmission Line

4 min read

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a 3,700-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a $2 billion, 720-mile transmission line to pass through Arkansas. 

In April, Clean Line Energy Partners, a private transmission company in Houston, Texas, announced it would build a $100 million converter station along the Plains & Eastern Clean Line‘s route, somewhere in central Arkansas. The DOE’s draft impact statement said based on Clean Line’s feasibility evaluation, the converter station could be sited in either Pope County or Conway County. 

“This alternative converter station would be similar to the Oklahoma and Tennessee converter stations except that it would likely require a smaller land area, encompassing approximately 40 to 50 acres, ” the draft reads. “Based on preliminary design and studies, it would be capable of interconnecting 500-megawatts. With the implementation of this alternative, the delivery capability of the project would be increased to 4,000-megawatts.

“The interconnection for the Arkansas Converter Station would include an approximate 6-mile, 500-kilovolt AC transmission line to an interconnection point along the existing Arkansas Nuclear One-Pleasant Hill 500-kilovolt AC transmission line by way of a direct tap or small switchyard.”

Clean Line says the converter station would power 160,000 homes annually in Arkansas.

The transmission line would include converter stations at the endpoints, near Guymon, Oklahoma, and Memphis, Tennessee. The draft shows the transmission line would pass through Cleburne, Conway, Crawford, Cross, Faulkner, Franklin, Jackson, Johnson, Mississippi, Poinsett, Pope, Van Buren and White counties in Arkansas. 

The Plains & Eastern Clean Line project would deliver more than 4,000 megawatts from renewable energy generation facilities in Oklahoma to customers in Arkansas, Tennessee and other areas throughout the southeast.

One megawatt is equal to one million watts. On average, a singe one-megawatt wind turbine can power 240 to 400 homes in the United States.

According to the DOE, Clean Line expects operations and maintenance of the transmission line to require 72 to 87 full-time workers, including 15 workers at each of the converter stations, and a total of 42 workers in Oklahoma and Arkansas for the high-voltage direct current transmission line. The project won’t break ground until 2016, and is expected to be online by the end of 2018.

The DOE estimated a construction workforce of about 965 workers over a 42-month construction period. The construction and operation of the converter station in Arkansas would raise the potential workforce by 10 percent, the DOE said.

While the transmission line itself won’t have a direct impact on jobs, Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy, expects the line to have a large impact on the energy market as a whole, when factoring in the additional need for towers, blades, turbines and other equipment.

In April, Skelly told Arkansas Business, “The wind energy associated with it … will facilitate the construction of another roughly $6 billion to $7 billion of new wind projects that cannot be built today.”

Also in April, Arkansas Business reported Clean Line had been denied recognition as a utility by the Arkansas Public Service Commission in 2011. Then, the company was silent on its future plans, and was again Monday in another interview with Arkansas Business.

“Right now, we’re just focusing on getting through the federal process,” Skelly said.

Eminent Domain a ‘Last Resort’

According to the company, it has been meeting with Arkansas landowners since 2010, regarding potential routes for the transmission line.

When asked about the possibility of eminent domain, Skelly said it was a last resort.

“We don’t want to have to use eminent domain,” he said.

According to a fact sheet on its website, Clean Line will pay landowners both an easement payment and structure payment. For the direct current line, Clean Line says it uses about 150-200 feet for constructing, operating and maintaining the line. 

The company said easement compensation will be based on the area of the easement, calculated in acres, and the fair market fee value of the land, determined by an independent appraiser through recent fee sales in the particular county. 

Structure compensation will be calculated based on the type of structure used by Clean Line, and the number of structures on the property. The landowner will have the choice of a one-time payment or annual payments. Clean Line says annual payments will be made as long as the structure is on the easement, and will include a two percent escalator applied to each annual payment per structure, after the first payment is made.

Structures vary from $500 annually or a $6,000 one-time payment, to $2,000 annually or a $24,000 one-time payment. 

Clean Line says it will also pay for related damages incurred, such as crop damage, irrigation or drainage interference or commercially marketable timber that is cleared from the land.

A final decision from the DOE won’t come until after the environmental review process is complete. It will hold 15 public meetings in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas in January and February. The following public meetings will be held in Arkansas:

  • 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9 — Arkansas State University-Newport at Student Community Center, 7648 Victory Blvd.
  • 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10 — Carmichael Community Center Auditorium in Searcy, 801 S. Elm St.
  • 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11 — Arkansas State University-Marked Tree at Student Center, 33500 Arkansas 63 E.

To view the draft EIS, or view ways to submit written comments for consideration, click here.

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