American Electric Power (AEP) said last week it is evaluating the feasibility of building a multistate, extra-high-voltage transmission project—more than 1,000 miles long—across the Upper Midwest to support the development of renewable energy.

The utility has proposed building the first 765-kV extra-high-voltage transmission lines (PDF) to connect major wind developments in the Dakotas and surrounding states to the existing 765-kV network that ends near Chicago. The western terminus of the project would be near a 2,000-MW wind generation project in North Dakota being developed by Hartland Wind Farm LLC. Hartland will collaborate with AEP on development of the project.

AEP said that the proposal is part of its vision of an expanded national transmission grid to support the development of large-scale renewable generation and more efficiently use existing electricity production and delivery infrastructure.

“A critical component of our nation’s approach to addressing climate change is the ability to harvest our most viable renewable generation resources. The Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa have some of the very best wind generation resources in the United States, but the wind potential in this region cannot be developed unless we build a very efficient transmission superhighway to bring this clean, renewable generation to population and electricity load centers,” said Michael G. Morris, AEP chairman, president, and CEO, in a statement.

The transmission proposal is in the conceptual stage, but AEP anticipates that linking Upper Midwest wind resources with the existing extra-high-voltage transmission infrastructure in the Chicago region will likely require more than 1,000 miles of new extra-high-voltage transmission lines at a cost of between $5 billion and $10 billion.

“A 765-kV transmission line requires less land to carry more power than lower-voltage lines, and the 765-kV line would cost less than half as much to build on a dollar-per-megawatt basis,” Morris said.

Because of the project’s scope and size, it will likely be built in stages over a 10-year period. AEP will collaborate with all appropriate parties within the region, including local utilities.

The Midwest Independent System Operator—the entity responsible for the planning and operation of the transmission system in this region—will first have to approve the plan, however.

Source: AEP