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Extra-High-Voltage Line from AEP Would Connect Wind-Rich Dakotas

December 9, 2008

American Electric Power is evaluating the feasibility of building a multi-state, extra-high-voltage transmission project across the Upper Midwest that would connect the Dakotas and other wind-rich areas with electricity load centers, the investor-owned utility company said.

AEP proposes building the first 765-kV transmission lines to connect major wind developments in the Dakotas and surrounding states to the existing 765-kV network that en ds near Chicago, Ill.

The proposal is part of AEP’s vision of an expanded national transmission grid to support the development of large-scale renewable generation and use existing electricity production and delivery infrastructure more efficiently. AEP, a recognized leader in modern transmission development and planning, has produced an often-referenced map depicting a “national transmission superhighway” of modern and efficient, extra-high-voltage lines that would transport renewable energy around the country; that map is included in the Department of Energy’s report showing the feasibility of wind power providing 20% of the nation’s electricity (see www.20percentwind.org ).

“A critical component of our nation’s approach to addressing climate change is the ability to harvest our most viable renewable generation resources,” said Michael G. Morris, AEP chairman, president and CEO. “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.”

The transmission proposal is in the conceptual stage, but it is anticipated that the project would likely require more than 1,000 miles of new transmission lines at a cost of between $5 billion and $10 billion. Because of the project's scope and size, it will likely be built in stages over a 10-year period. The Midwest Independent System Operator, the entity responsible for the planning and operation of the transmission system in the region, will have final approval of the plan.

Morris noted that the highly efficient, 765-kV lines require “less land to carry more power” than lower-voltage lines and that the proposed project would cost less than half as much to build on a dollar-per-megawatt basis. Because of their higher voltage, the lines also transport electricity with significantly less line losses of electricity.

Source: Wind Energy Weekly 1317 (5 December 2008).