Wind friendly Thumb Loop grid project completed in Michigan

ITC Transmission, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ITC Holdings Corp., on May 13 announced that its Thumb Loop high-voltage transmission project is complete with the energization of the third and final phase of the project.

ITC invested an estimated $510 million to build the 345 kV line, which serves as the backbone of a system designed to meet the identified maximum wind energy potential of Michigan’s Thumb region. It also will contribute to regional system reliability and facilitate wholesale market competition.

Several wind farms have been built or are planned in the Thumb region, which is on the east side of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and is basically a peninsula that juts up between Lake Huron on the east and Saginaw Bay on the west. These projects can not only take advantage of winds created by those lakes, but are also located near load centers in major cities like Ann Arbor, Flint and Detroit.

“Conceiving and completing the Thumb Loop project demonstrates the value of forward-thinking, collaborative planning between the state and key stakeholders,” said Joseph L. Welch, chairman, president and CEO of ITC Holdings Corp. “It’s a prime example of the effectiveness of ITC’s planning process, which identified the transmission needed to facilitate Michigan’s renewable energy goals while also strengthening the regional transmission grid. This project brings an increase in transmission system capacity and reliability while providing more efficient transmission of renewable energy. It also created jobs and will have a meaningful near and long-term impact on the economy of the region and the entire state.”

Gov. Rick Snyder said: “The Thumb Loop has been a good investment for Michigan. It has allowed us to expand our agricultural processing abilities and allowed us to add low-cost renewable energy to our grid and saved Michigan ratepayers real money. It is a good example of why we need to evaluate transmission in our overall planning to ensure an adaptable, affordable, reliable, and environmentally protective energy future.”

“The entire ITC team worked tirelessly to bring the Thumb Loop into service ahead of the original end-of-2015 target,” said Linda Blair, ITC executive vice president, chief business unit officer and president, ITC Michigan. “This effort reflects ITC’s ongoing commitment to operational excellence and focused project management, working in close cooperation with landowners, communities and alliance partners and suppliers, many of whom are based in Michigan.”

Studies by the Midcontinent ISO show that Multi-Value Projects such as the Thumb Loop are anticipated to produce benefits for customers in Michigan and the broader region of between two-and-a-half and four times the project cost.

The Thumb Loop project consists of approximately 140 miles of double-circuit 345 kV transmission lines and four new substations. It serves as the “backbone” of a system designed to meet the identified maximum wind energy potential of the Thumb region and is capable of supporting a maximum capacity of about 5,000 MW. Additional lines and facilities will be needed in the future as wind generators go into service and connect to the backbone system.

Construction began in 2011, and the project was put into service in three phases. Phase 1, consisting of 62 miles of lines and two substations in Tuscola and Huron counties, went into service in September 2013. Phase 2 includes 20 miles of lines in St. Clair and Sanilac counties, the Fitz Substation in St. Clair County and upgrades at the Greenwood substation; it was energized in May 2014. Phase 3, comprising 56 miles of line in Huron and Sanilac counties and the Banner substation near Sandusky, went into service in May 2015.

International Transmission Co. (d/b/a ITC Transmission) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ITC Holdings, the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company. Based in Novi, Michigan, ITC Transmission owns, operates and maintains approximately 3,000 circuit miles of transmission line in Southeast Michigan.

ITC Holdings (NYSE: ITC) is based in Novi, Michigan, and invests in the electric transmission grid to improve reliability, expand access to markets, lower the overall cost of delivered energy and allow new generating resources to interconnect to its transmission systems. Through its regulated operating subsidiaries, ITC owns and operates high-voltage transmission facilities in Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, serving a combined peak load exceeding 26,000 MW along approximately 15,600 circuit miles of transmission line.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.