Wind Power Transmission Project in Plains Earns U.S. Approval

Source: By DIANE CARDWELL, New York Times • Posted: Monday, March 28, 2016

A major transmission project aimed at bringing wind energy out of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle cleared a significant hurdle on Friday as the Energy Department announced it would allow the project to go forward.

The development, led by Clean Line Energy Partners, had been delayed because of resistance from state lawmakers, but the federal decision is a green light for the project.

The decision also signals that the Obama administration remains committed to encouraging the spread of renewable energy, seen as a major component of reaching national goals on stemming climate change. Multiple companies are hoping to build high-voltage transmission lines to transport renewable energy produced by wind farms and hydroelectric plants to more populous regions of the country.

“Moving remote and plentiful power to areas where electricity is in high demand is essential for building the grid of the future,” Ernest Moniz, the energy secretary, said in a statement. “Building modern transmission that delivers renewable energy to more homes and businesses will create jobs, cut carbon emissions and enhance the reliability of our grid.”

Clean Line Energy Partners will still need to acquire land where the line would cross. The federal government said it could use eminent domain if negotiations failed, under a thus-far unused provision of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

Energy officials have been urging significant extensions and upgrades to the nation’s transmission system for years but there has been little new construction since the 1980s. And although the push to enhance the grid has gained urgency as renewables have spread, thousands of miles of long-haul lines have not yet gained approval.

Allowing the project, called Plains and Eastern, to go ahead could encourage the spread of low-carbon electricity and increase system reliability at a reasonable cost to consumers, the department said.

Michael Skelly, the president of Clean Line, said, “We are encouraged by the strong market demand for low-cost, clean energy and anticipate that interest will only increase now that the project has this essential approval in place.”

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