The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved incentives that could help a Michigan company build a 3,000-mile transmission “superhighway” to move wind-generated power out of the Midwest
Novi, Mich.-based ITC Holdings Corp. filed its rate and incentives application in February. On Monday, FERC approved a 12.38 percent return on investment for the project, which is expected to cost $10 billion to $12 billion.
The “Green Power Express” would surge with 12,000 megawatts of wind-generated power. The extra-high voltage transmission lines would spread across the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana to deliver wind power to Chicago and points east.
Just one megawatt of generated power can supply about 300 homes; the Green Power Express promises to deliver wind-generated electricity to 3.6 million homes.
“We’re very pleased with the quick action and a very supportive order,” said Joe Dudak, vice president, major contracts and special projects for ITC. “There are several obstacles ahead for us, but this is a great first step.”
Next steps include cost allocation and recovery for the project, Dudak said. And because of its broad scope, the Green Power Express will need help with permits, payment and planning across several regional transmission organizations.
Because the project originates in the Midwest, ITC officials have asked the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator for its review.
“We’ve asked MISO to do the study, identify impacts to seams and areas where it affects consumers,” Dudak said. “We’re counting on them to come back to us favorably.”
The network could come online by 2020 and would be a boon to the Midwest economy.
“It’s important for us to get wind to those consumers. We need export capabilities,” said South Dakota Wind Energy Association director Steve Wegman, a former analyst for the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. “We’re not talking about building one or two little wind farms or having a wind tower on every farm – we’re building an industry. And that’s huge.”
Six of the seven states where the Green Power Express would traverse are among the top 20 states for wind energy potential, according to the American Wind Energy Association. North Dakota ranks first, with South Dakota fourth.
“Meeting our nation’s energy goals will require developing extra-high voltage transmission infrastructure that is needed to bring clean, renewable energy from areas where it is produced most efficiently to areas where most of our nation’s power is consumed,” FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.
ITC is working toward partnerships with energy companies to supply the network.
Utilities and wind developers that already have expressed support include NorthWestern Energy, NextEra Energy, Iberdrola Renewables, Generation Energy, Montgomery Power Partners, Denali Energy, National Wind, Crownbutte Wind Power, Wind Capital Group and RES Americas.
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