How Can the Southeast Benefit from Wind Energy in Texas?

This blog entry was written by Allie Brown, former Clean Energy Advocacy Manager at SACE.

Guest Blog | May 9, 2017 | Energy Policy, Wind
Southern Cross Transmission route under study
Southern Cross Transmission route under study

It’s true what they say, everything is bigger in Texas…and that includes the wind energy industry! Texas is number one in the nation for wind energy production with over 20 gigawatts of installed capacity. With such a fantastic and cheap wind resource, is there any way for the Southeast to reap the benefits? Pattern Energy Group LP (Pattern Development) has created a solution: Build a new transmission line that can deliver 2,000 megawatts of clean, abundant, and cheap wind energy to our region. The line, Southern Cross, will connect to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) transmission grid system, enabling access to some of the best wind energy resources in the country.

Earlier this month, Pattern Development took the next step to making this transmission line a reality. They submitted their proposals to the Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) for approval. Below is everything you need to know about the Southern Cross transmission line and the next step needed to move the project forward:

What is the proposal that was submitted to the MPSC?

Pattern Development filed a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (also know as a siting certificate) with the MPSC. Within the petition, Pattern Development included a designation of a preferred, proposed route for the commissioners to consider. The MPSC is currently reviewing and should make a decision over the next few months.

What kind of transmission line will be used?

The 400-mile line will use a high voltage direct current (HVDC) line to connect wind energy from Texas to Mississippi and the rest of the Southeast. HVDC lines are more commonly used to transmit power over long distances. This type of line is more efficient, experiencing 30-50% less transmission losses than an AC line. Higher efficiency means lower costs, which keeps the prices of power competitive with other electricity sources.

What is the preferred transmission route?

The line would begin in De Soto Parish in western Louisiana just over the Texas border.  The line would then cross over the Mississippi River in Issaquena County and go through Washington, Sharkey, Humphreys, Holmes, Carroll, Montgomery, Choctaw, Oktibbeha, Clay, and Monroe counties. It would terminate at a converter station in Lowndes County, which is right along the border of Alabama. From there, the new line could connect to existing lines and distribute the power in other states across the region.

Southern Cross Transmission - Parish and County map for Louisiana and Mississippi
Southern Cross Transmission – Parish and County map for Louisiana and Mississippi

What are the local economic benefits?

The project will provide significant economic benefits within Louisiana, and Mississippi, including $3.9 billion in total direct, indirect, induced and fiscal economic impact. The project has many benefits for landowners of the project, generating an annual average property tax payments of approximately $14.7 million. Over the 30 years of the project, that adds up to $441 million in property taxes in Mississippi and Louisiana! At peak construction, the project could create over 650 jobs. Pattern Development is also focused on hiring local vendors for manufacturing components for the transmission line.

Who is going to buy the wind energy?

The developer is currently in discussions with parties interested in buying the power. Already, southern utilities import over 3.5 gigawatts of wind power, enough for 1 million homes. The project would help electric companies in the southeast continue buying long-term, low-cost wind electricity. Utilities are also beginning to hedge against fossil fuel price volatility and regulatory uncertainty. Fossil fuels (including natural gas and coal) are becoming a risky investment strategy for electric utility companies. Diversifying energy portfolios with wind energy can help reduce risks associated with new carbon emission regulations, natural gas regulations, water limitations, and fossil fuel price volatility.

What is the timeline for completion?

Pattern Development plans to begin construction of the power line in 2018 with wind power delivery as early as 2021.

SACE will continue to track this closely, and will post updates on our blog as the project progresses!

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