The US government has unveiled ambitious measures to oil the wheels of financing and siting of long-distance powerlines necessary to unlock and deliver more low-cost renewable energy from the country’s interior as well as from future wind farms off the Atlantic coast.
The loan programmes office of the Department of Energy (DoE) opened channels seeking applications for up to $5bn in loan guarantees to support innovative transmission projects by private companies or those owned by nearly 600 tribal nations or Alaska Native Corporations recognised by the federal government.
This includes long-haul high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) systems, transmission to connect offshore wind plants and infrastructure located along railroad and highway routes.
“DoE is making financing available for projects that improve resilience and expand transmission capacity across the electrical grid, so we can reliably move clean energy from places where it’s produced to places where it is needed most,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, calling the move a “down payment on our efforts to modernise our transmission nationwide.”
The 60GW of wind and solar deployment enabled by the lines would create an additional 640,000 jobs, according to Transmission Projects Ready To Go: Plugging Into America’s Untapped Renewable Resources.
The so-called “shovel-ready” projects located mostly west of the Mississippi River total 7,923km (4,923 miles) and would add 42GW of transfer capacity to America’s transmission system. They include SOO Green and the high-profile Grain Belt Express and Plains & Eastern projects that stalled under former sponsor Clean Line Energy last decade due to public opposition and other reasons.
The Western Area Power Administration’s (WAPA) $3.25bn transmission infrastructure programme is also accepting applications where firms can obtain project development support and access to low-cost capital for new power lines that will unlock renewable energy in the West.
WAPA, based in Denver, is one of four power marketing administrations within DoE, marketing and transporting more than 25,000GWh/year of hydropower from 57 federal project via an extensive network of owned transmission lines.
The Department of Transportation (DoT) also will facilitate the use of right-of-way (ROW) owned by the federal government along public highways and railroad lines to speed the siting and permitting of transmission lines.
DoT Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that leveraging public lands adjacent to US transportation systems for construction of power lines will promote energy security and diversity, cut emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and create opportunities for states to raise revenue that they can use for maintenance of highways they own.
The federal interstate highway system that connects the lower 48 states is 77,960km in length. Buttigieg did not say how much of that ROW could be used for construction of power lines.
While most of the US railroad network is owned managed by private companies, the federal government retains ownership of lands adjacent to ROW in some cases.
Last August, Recharge reported that a group backed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Siemens Energy proposed a groundbreaking 350-mile (565km) underground 525kV HVDC transmission line running along existing rail corridors from Iowa to Illinois.
The $2.5bn SOO Green merchant project would connect wind farms and have capacity to deliver 2.1GW of electricity along ROW owned by Canadian Pacific Railway (formerly SOO Line Railroad).
The White House cited the job creation potential of a major build-out of clean energy power lines. It cited a study made public today that identified 22 projects that could begin construction in the near-term, a $33.3bn investment that could create as many as 600,000 new jobs.