Illinois-based Southwire Company, which has over 40 years of experience in the design and manufacturing of transmission cable, has contracted to build the very much needed transmission line locally, in a “huge” deal to bring enough clean energy from wind-swept states like South Dakota to power more than 1.4 million homes in Illinois and farther east.
Gov. Quinn announced the Rock Island Clean Line agreement at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Regional Wind Energy Summit held in Chicago, after delivering the AWEA keynote address, together with Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners, a company working to build renewable transmission infrastructure.
In signing the memorandum of understanding, which assigns the manufacturing of the wire for the Rock Island Clean Line project to Southwire, Kelly said: “We believe it is increasingly important to invest in energy infrastructure in order to contribute to local economies, create new jobs in America and improve energy security.”
The potential future supply order from Clean Line for Southwire could be worth $70 million or more depending on commodity prices and other variables.
Building the Rock Island Clean Line will enable approximately $7 billion worth of stalled investments in new wind energy projects, which today cannot be constructed due to the lack of transmission, to move forward.
The agreement solves a real problem: the crucial need for more long distance transmission to get more renewable energy online. There are more than 300,000 megawatts of wind power waiting to come online due to transmission constraints, according to the AWEA.
Highlighting the magnitude of the project, Charlie Murrah, president of Southwire’s Energy Division, said, “Such projects help to address the infrastructure needs that are critical to delivering renewable power to the population centers in the Midwest.”
The new transmission will traverse 500 miles with a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line, able to carry 3.5 gigawatts of clean energy from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to communities and businesses in Illinois and other states to the east.
HVDC is the best way to add more renewable energy onto the grid because it has almost no transmission losses over long distances, unlike the more widely used AC lines. Typically the best renewables are far from population centers in the windiest states (and the hottest deserts).