Clean Line: SPP includes Plains & Eastern in ITP10; EIS expected in 1Q14

Clean Line Energy Partners, in tandem with a request for information (RFI) about wind energy projects, said it expects the NEPA process for its Plains & Eastern transmission line to conclude in 1Q14.

The company also said that the Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) Economic Studies Working Group on June 6 voted to include the Plains & Eastern project in the base case for its 10-year transmission plan, ITP10.

“Plains & Eastern Clean Line’s inclusion in the base case indicates SPP’s assumption that the project will be interconnected within the next ten years and recognition of the technical viability of using HVDC lines in its transmission expansion plan,” Clean Line said in a project update released June 20.

The project is a 700-mile, 600-kV HVDC line that is proposed to transport wind energy from Oklahoma across Arkansas to Tennessee, where it will be distributed to the Mid-South and Southeast. The company has shortened the line’s length from 750 miles, a spokesperson for Clean Line told TransmissionHub on June 21.

Plains & Eastern is estimated to cost $2bn and will have a capacity of 3,500 MW. The project is scheduled to begin construction in 2015 and enter service in late 2017 or early 2018.

As originally conceived, the project was to be constructed in two phases of 3,500 MW and cost $3.5bn.

“At a later date we may develop a second phase (another line) for an additional 3,500 MW,” the spokesperson said.

The western portion of the project will interconnect to SPP’s transmission system in Texas County, Okla., and the eastern portion of the project will interconnect to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) transmission system in Shelby County, Tenn.

TVA is executing a system impact study to identify transmission upgrades that would be needed to interconnect Plains & Eastern into its system, the company said. Clean Line’s own internal studies have found that the project can “reliably interconnect thousands of megawatts of Oklahoma wind power to the TVA system.”

The majority of TVA’s generation, or 59%, comes from coal and nuclear power.

“TVA has shown leadership in acquiring wind outside its footprint and delivering the energy to their system through the AC system, but this is not an efficient means of integrating thousands of MW of renewables into their system,” Clean Line said, adding that it is working with TVA to study the project’s interconnection.

NEPA and DOE participation 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Clean Line in October 2012 signed a participation agreement to guide the project through the environmental review.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, TVA, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are serving as cooperating agencies in the NEPA process.

Scoping was completed in March and a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) is expected in 1Q14, the company said.

Plains & Eastern was proposed in response to a DOE request for proposals under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05), which provides for federal siting for projects.

“Clean Line is currently focused on the federal Section 1222 process … as a preferred regulatory structure for project siting,” the company said.

DOE participation in the project would also mean funding, Clean Line said.

However, before DOE decides whether to participate in the project under Section 1222, it “must complete an environmental impact statement evaluating the potential environmental impacts of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Project pursuant to NEPA as well as undertake and complete federal consultations pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act,” Clean Line said. “Along with completion of the NEPA process, Clean Line would like the DOE to sign a participation agreement that will allow Clean Line to work with DOE and Southwestern [Power Administration] and provide them with ‘contributed funds’ for the purposes of land acquisition, construction and operation.”

Clean Line’s investors include National Grid, the Houston-based Zilkha family and funds associated with ZBI Ventures.

The company plans to file for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) in Tennessee in 2014. Clean Line has secured utility status from Oklahoma regulators, and is working to secure customers and build stakeholder support in Arkansas. The Arkansas PSC denied Clean Line’s request for utility status, citing the company’s lack of current ownership of transmission facilities, lack of contracts with Arkansas entities and the language of relevant statutes, the company said.

FERC granted Clean Line authority to charge negotiated rates in June 2012. 

Wind RFI

To evaluate the wind resources that Plains & Eastern would transport, Clean Line on June 20 issued an RFI.

“While it is obvious to many in the wind industry that more transmission infrastructure is needed, the data collected through this RFI will be used to communicate this need to utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders,” Clean Line said.

Only those developers who have projects currently under development should respond, the company said. Projects that are submitted should be capable of entering service by Jan. 1, 2018.

The company intends to provide stakeholders with aggregate data obtained from responses to the RFI, including the high-capacity factor, low-cost energy resources in the Oklahoma Panhandle region, the company said.

Though all submissions will be confidential, Clean Line will provide publicly acceptable information, such as the number of responses to the RFI, the total amount of nameplate capacity submitted, and summarized wind speed, capacity factor and pricing data.

The RFI is not connected to the Plains & Eastern anchor tenant subscription or open season processes; rather, it is meant to gather information about generators’ demand for the Plains & Eastern line’s capacity and ascertain the wind resource and production potential of the Oklahoma Panhandle region, the company said.

Deadlines are as follows:

  • June 20: RFI issued
  • July 1: Notice of Intent to Respond due
  • July 3: Any changes to form of confidentiality agreement due
  • July 11, 9:00 – 10:30 AM CDT: Respondents’ Conference conducted via webinar to answer questions and provide clarification. Respondents will receive participation details upon submitting the Notice of Intent to Respond.
  • July 15: Confidentiality Agreement due
  • July 19: Clean Line will return executed confidentiality agreements via email
  • August 5: Response Form and any supplemental materials due
About Rosy Lum 525 Articles
Rosy Lum, Analyst for TransmissionHub, has been covering the U.S. energy industry since 2007. She began her career in energy journalism at SNL Financial, for which she established a New York news desk. She covered topics ranging from energy finance and renewable policies and incentives, to master limited partnerships and ETFs. Thereafter, she honed her energy and utility focus at the Financial Times' dealReporter, where she covered and broke oil and gas and utility mergers and acquisitions.