Wind energy 'pipeline' from Texas to the Southeast

Pattern Energy hopes to build a 400-mile transmission line to bring Texas wind power to ten southeastern states.
Written by Melissa Mahony, Contributor

Texas leads the nation in wind power, with more than 9,700 operating wind turbines. The southeastern United States? Not nearly as many.

But Pattern Energy Groupaims to send these less gusty states some of the power generated by strong Texan winds.

They are proposing to build a 400-mile transmission line from Texas to northeastern Mississippi. From there, Southern Cross transmission line would break out to potentially deliver power to three utilities (possiblyTennessee Valley Authority,Southern Company, and Entergy Corp) serving ten southern states. In this scenario, a home in Atlanta could receive wind electricity from Texas.

The current Texas grid constraints, however, keep all such power in Texas.

ERCOT's multi-billion dollar initiative to expand transmission within Texas is currently underway in the hopes of almost doubling the state's wind capacity to 18,000 megawatts by 2013. The cost to electricity consumers of such transmission investments, the American Wind Energy Association contends, would become negligible when spread over time and a broader area.

By 2016 the $1 billion Southern Cross project, according to Pattern Energy, could free up grid congestion and help the wind industry grow by allowing it to sell the power across the border to the east.

Reuters reports:

While Texas has exceeded its renewable power target, Southeastern states have yet to set targets to boost use of renewable power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fueled power plants.

Some utilities, however, expect federal mandates in the future. TVA, for example, built the first wind farm in the Southeast and seeks to buy 2,000 MW of wind generation over the next few years. Its 1,300 MW of wind power under contract so far will come from Illinois, Kansas, Iowa and the Dakotas where wind power is abundant.

While a national renewable energy standard would likely push things along, according to Pattern Energy's David Parquet, it's not essential to their project's success.

Still, establishing new transmission paths and acquiring site permits can be difficult, and the company will need to get approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its Southern Cross line in order for it to go forward.

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