Pattern's Southern Cross gets nod

Pattern Energy Group LP, the wind developer owned by Riverstone Holdings, has received final regulatory approval for its 3GW Southern Cross transmission project, which seeks to flow wind power from Texas to wind-poor states in the US southeast.

Pattern Energy Group LP (known as Pattern Development says the nod from the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) means the project could be in place by 2019.

Pattern Development is the former – and still majority – owner of Pattern Energy, the wind yieldco which went public late last year. Pattern Energy owns several hundred megawatts of wind capacity in Texas.

According to Pattern Development, FERC has issued a series of orders related to the 3GW Southern Cross, including compelling the city of Garland, near Dallas, to interconnect with the project; and directing the transmission operators Oncor and CenterPoint to provide service for power flows into and out of Texas’ grid.

The project received a major boost several years ago, when FERC ruled that transmission owners that connected to Southern Cross would still answer only to Texas rather than to the federal regulator, despite the fact that Southern Cross will cross state lines.

As initially designed, the Southern Cross project would stretch for 400 miles (640km) from eastern Texas, across neighboring Louisiana, and up into northern Mississippi, potentially putting in a position to serve the Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest federally owned power utility in the US.

Southern Cross “will allow Texas to share its abundant, low-cost wind energy resources with its neighbor states to the southeast”, says Mike Garland, who is chief executive of both Pattern Development and Pattern Energy.

But Pattern is not the only developer seeking to bring wind power from Texas into the southeast, where a number of states – including Louisiana and Mississippi – have no installed wind capacity at present.

The Houston-based developer Clean Line Energy Partners has proposed its own 700-mile line – the so-called Plains & Eastern project – flowing wind power from Oklahoma and Texas to the southeast.

Such transmission lines would open Texas, which is effectively an energy island, to further wind development.

Some lawmakers in Tennessee, however, have expressed reservations about the importation of wind power on a massive scale, urging caution.