Allette, Inc. and Grid United partnered to build what could become the first high-voltage direct current (HVDC) power transmission line that interconnects three independent system operator regions: the Midcontinent System Operator (MISO), Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and the Western Interconnection.
The new power project, the North Plains Connector, is a 385-mile HVDC transmission line that will connect central North Dakota to Colstrip, Montana. The power line will provide 3 GW of transfer capacity between the middle of the country and all three energy markets. The developers expect it to ease congestion on the transmission system, increase resiliency and reliability, and enable fast sharing of energy resources across a vast area with diverse weather patterns.
The North Plains Connector project is in the development phase. As project developer, Grid United is currently engaged with landowners and stakeholders to determine the best route for the line. Both companies expect project permitting to start this year as they work toward an in-service date of 2029, pending regulatory approvals.
“It is no secret that the U.S. is in desperate need of new electric transmission capacity, and the North Plains Connector will provide resiliency and reliability benefits for decades to come,” said Michael Skelly, chief executive officer of Grid United.
Skelly is behind a previous transmission development company, Clean Line Energy, which dissolved in 2017 when a multi-state project failed to secure state regulatory approval. He previously helmed Horizon Wind Power, now part of EDPR, one of the largest onshore wind developers in the U.S. He was the subject of the 2019 book, “Superpower,” by Wall Street Journal senior energy reporter, Russell Gold, who chronicled Skelly’s career as a risk taker in the project development market.
Grid United is developing five additional HVDC projects ranging from 100 to 300 miles providing interconnection of renewable energy in Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming. The company backed by an advisory board that includes Carl Monroe, former chief operating officer of the SPP, Jack Hand, former CEO of Power Engineers, and William Kaul, former chief transmission officer of Great River Energy, a Minnesota utility.
Investments in transmission projects have grown in recent months with the promise of the Inflation Reduction Act putting subsidies behind renewable energy projects located in remote places of the grid, requiring a modern grid system.
On January 12, a partnership between Invenergy and the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority outlined the 400-mile North Path transmission line, a proposed HVDC line that will have the capacity to move up to 4 GW of renewable energy produced in New Mexico to the state’s Four Corners region. The North Path line is expected to begin operations in 2025 and reach completion in 2028.
Another major transmission project was recently approved recently by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). SunZia is a 550-mile 525 kV HVDC transmission project. Separately, the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission issued two approvals of Pattern Energy’s SunZia Wind project, a 3.5 GW proposed wind project in New Mexico that will provide power across the transmission line to Pinal County, Arizona. Once complete, the SunZia Transmission and Wind project represents the largest clean energy project in the U.S., including $8 billion in total investments.
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This sounds like a project chasing free money. My tax dollars!! Why DC current. Tesla, (Nickola, not Elon), showed Edison, and the world, that AC current is transmitted much more efficiently over long distances than DC current. Why does “clean energy”, (yes, primarily, a DC product), have to be transmitted over a dedicated line. The electrons do not care where they came from! By the time they reach the consumer, they are AC.
Now, we have created another bottle neck in that when we are in need of more AC current and it is available from an AC source, we have to wait until the sun comes up or the wind picks up so that we can use the DC lines. Or, maybe, we need some of both at the same time? Too bad!! YES, STUPID!!!!
DC connections are the only possible way to share, export or import electric power between the 9 independent synchronous areas of North America. The 9 are “asynchronous” to each other ; direct AC links between them are not technically feasible. With the DC connections there is no danger of inducing non-matching and disruptive wave forms from one region to another. HVDC has been in use for decades all over the world for long distance ties.
North Dakota has a lot of wind potential. And Colstrip, Montana, at the other end of the line, just happens to be where a number of coal power plants are shutting down, hence there is a lot of transmission capacity there going west. Sounds like a good idea to me, if they can get it permitted.
On the previous comment “Why DC”? Higher capacity than AC, easier to manage, and more efficient. It has nothing to do with the source of that energy. BTW, Edison would have been right about DC, if only he had the technology that we have today.
A DC Link enables “asynchronous” Connection between the AC Systems on either side.. (see the 2GW… Hydro Quebec Link between Quebec and New England).
The main issue, in my mind, is how long will this proposed 3GW Interconnection last before it has to be replaced/upgraded.. and the environmental clearances have to obtained .. all over again… Looks like it is a “many” Life Long” Project for lawyers..
Will the, powers to be, wake up from their deep slumber, “grow-up” and awaken to the fact that the existing 1.2 TW Grid… handling 4,200 TWh/yr today will have to handle 18,000 TWhrs/yr in 2050 to support a POLLUTION FREE USA WITH A 15TW SOLAR POWER GRID..
So.. you see … this 3GW Interconnection will likely require 35-40GW Capabity… within a Decade or two…
However, this requires LEADERSHIP from the Biden Administration to launch the USA to a ZERO POLLUTION USA and “Lead” the World to create a POLLUTION FREE EARTH. This would Eliminate the Global 9 Million PreMature Deaths annually and 275 Million DALY of Suffering caused by Pollution TODAY .. mostly from use of Energy only …. AND IS THE MAIN REASON FOR CONVERSION FROM POLLUTING FOSSIL FUELS TO POLLUTION FREE ENERGY.. with or without Climate Change … that makes NONE DIE or Suffer …. TODAY.. !!!
Will somebody “ring the bell” at the White House.. for some REAL LEADERSHIP & ACTION .. PLEEEASE…. so the “Interconnections” can meet the Need(s) of the Future and not become Obsolete BEFORE they are even Operational… !!!
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