Questions follow announcement of green superhighway

Posted on February 11, 2009. Filed under: Transmission, Wind |

From an article by Judy Newman:

The proposal would involve building massive 765-kilovolt transmission lines — nearly twice the capacity of the biggest lines now running through the state, at 345 kilovolts — and would run through parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

A conceptual map has the line entering Wisconsin at the state’s border with Minnesota and Iowa, about halfway between La Crosse and Prairie du Chien, and heading east toward what appears to be the Madison area. An ITC official did not provide site details.

“If all goes well, we could start construction in two years. This is obviously a project of significant scope,” said Lisa Aragon, ITC’s director of strategic initiatives. “We are aggressively targeting 2020 (for the lines) to be in service.”

The huge transmission cables could carry up to 12,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity, reducing carbon emissions by up to 34 million metric tons, the equivalent of annual emissions from at least seven 600-megawatt coal-fired power plants, said ITC chairman and chief executive Joseph Welch.

“The Green Power Express is in many ways the true definition of a ‘smart grid,’ ” Welch said in a prepared statement. It is part of “a bigger ITC vision of a super regional high-voltage transmission backbone,” he said.

Wisconsin regulatory officials, utility companies and environmentalists agree that more line capacity is needed to transport electricity generated by the growing number of wind farms. But they’re not sure ITC’s plan for giant-sized lines is the answer.

Michael Vickerman, executive director of the Madison environmental group, Renew Wisconsin, said he has “reservations” about the need for 765-kilovolt lines. Smaller transmission upgrades can accommodate new wind generation, he said.

Wisconsin Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Callisto also has questions.

“I don’t want to close any doors to what they have proposed but I have lots of grave concerns about the cost,” he said. ITC is proposing “very large lines” that would require “very large right-of-ways,” Callisto said. A right-of-way is the legal permission to use a property owner’s land or the area above it.

Callisto is part of a five-state panel — involving Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota North Dakota and South Dakota — discussing how to move electricity east from windier western states, and how to pay for that. The group has been looking into 345-kilovolt lines, Callisto said, and hopes to make recommendations this fall.


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