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From Site Selection magazine, May 2024

Getting Ready for Prime Time

What good is a prepared and certified industrial site if electrical power can’t get to it?

Shovel-Ready Sites

s a crush of major new facility investments descends on the United States across sectors from EV and battery plants to data centers and semiconductor fabs, concerns about a strained electrical grid are becoming paramount. In some cases those concerns are causing delays or outright cancellations, or at the very least redirecting location decisions away from territories with a higher risk where power supply and reliability are concerned.

So it’s only natural to turn from shovel-ready site preparation to wondering where the shovel-ready transmission projects are that will feed into those sites. And with corporations seeking to reach sustainability goals, feeding renewable power through those forthcoming lines also becomes paramount.

When Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG) in 2021 published a report highlighting major high-voltage power transmission infrastructure projects ready to get going but for permitting and approval delays, the number was 22. Last September, the organization published an update containing 36 ready-to-go projects totaling around 10,000 miles and 132 GW of transmission capacity (see map). But are we any closer to removing the obstacles in their way?

“Many of these projects have achieved key regulatory approval milestones and are ready to begin construction,” wrote co-authors Zachary Zimmerman, Michael Goggin and Rob Gramlich. “Many others could benefit from policies that improve how transmission is paid for and permitted, as some are still waiting for key permits while many more are still looking for mechanisms to recover the cost of building the project. While these projects would provide major benefits to electric sector reliability and decarbonization, still many more such projects will be required to cost-effectively meet our country’s growing electricity needs. Given the long lead time required to permit and build transmission, improvements to how we plan, pay for, and permit transmission are urgently needed to enable these projects and more like them to proceed to construction.”

Even before the renewable power they transmit drives economic development they say could create 2 million jobs, the authors posit that the transmission projects themselves would potentially create around 1.3 million jobs. “We estimate these 36 projects could interconnect around 187 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity,” the authors write, “almost doubling America’s wind and solar generation resource mix by 87% from current levels.”

Now Underway
Some of the 14 new projects in the report’s list aim to interconnect new offshore wind power along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coastlines. But there are other drivers all too familiar to other regions of the country. “Significant load growth, increasing U.S. manufacturing, data center demand (fueled recently by artificial intelligence), customer demand for clean generation, and increasingly favorable economics for renewable energy due to market trends as well as the Inflation Reduction Act and other policies, are likely driving greater market interest in transmission,” the report states.

More than likely, as the saying goes.
Since the 2021 report, 10 of the 22 projects identified have begun construction while two projects have been put on hold and thus are no longer included in the list, the update explains. The 10 projects under construction are expected to add approximately 19,500 MW of new generation. Here are spotlights on the projects under construction.

Ten West: “New AC line between Arizona and California, connecting the Delaney and Colorado River substations and allowing more solar development.”

Vineyard Wind: “AC line connecting 800 MW of offshore wind generation to Massachusetts. The federal government approved permitting for this project in 2021.”

Southfork Wind: “AC line connecting 132 MW of offshore wind generation to New York. The federal government approved permitting for this project in 2022.”

Colorado’s Power Pathway: New AC lines and upgrades proposed by Xcel’s Public Service Company of Colorado to interconnect eastern Colorado renewable resources.

Gateway West: “PacifiCorp and Idaho Power AC project first proposed in 2007 to deliver Wyoming wind to the Pacific Northwest. The project has received cost recovery via various state commissions and the relevant federal approvals.”

Gateway South: “PacifiCorp AC project to deliver Wyoming wind to Utah and the Southwest. The project has received cost recovery via various state commissions and the relevant federal approvals.”

Transwest Express: DC line to deliver power from Wyoming’s proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project to a market hub near Las Vegas, Nevada. Costs of this line will be recovered by subscribers including the wind generation owned by the transmission developer. The project will be integrated into the California ISO (CAISO) through a new ‘subscriber PTO’ model.

Cardinal-Hickory Creek: “New AC line from near Dubuque, Iowa to Madison, Wisconsin. This line is the last of Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s Multi-Value Projects. As of January 2023, there were 115 renewable generation projects totaling more than 17 gigawatts dependent upon its construction.”

Champlain Hudson: With cost recovery authorized by the State of New York, this merchant DC line, originally proposed in 2010, mostly runs under Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, delivering Canadian power to New York City.

New York Public Policy Transmission (Segment A & B): “Two projects, Central East Energy Connect and New York Energy Solution, to upgrade New York’s AC transmission system and interconnect more renewable energy.”

Hunter-Armistead_300x.jpgProminent among the 10 is SunZia, a DC merchant project being co-developed by Pattern Energy Group with NM RETA delivering New Mexico renewable resources to Arizona and points westward. “The project was initially proposed in 2006 by the SouthWestern Power Group,” the ACEG report recounts. “Since then, it went through a seven-year federal permitting process before receiving approval in 2015, but in 2018 the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission rejected SunZia’s application. The project filed an amended route with the federal government in 2020 and received final approval in 2023.”


Our hope is this successful financing of the largest clean energy infrastructure project in American history serves as an example for other ambitious renewable infrastructure initiatives that are needed to accelerate our transition to a carbon free future.
— Hunter Armistead, CEO of Pattern Energy, on the $11 billion financing of the SunZia wind and transmission projects


SunZia in December closed an $11 billion non-recourse financing of SunZia Wind and SunZia Transmission. “Construction is well underway on this historic project that will deliver clean power with a generation profile that complements abundant solar generation available across the Western United States,” said Hunter Armistead, CEO of Pattern Energy.

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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