Development of clean energy faces one big hurdle: lack of sufficient transmission to carry renewable power. Our electric grid wasn’t designed to serve renewable energy generation spread out over a large area, but rather centrally-located generating plants. As investment in renewable energy continues to grow, it’s important that transmission infrastructure improvements keep pace, allowing for the benefits of new clean energy development to be shared by more rural communities.
Our Clean Energy Transmission Database provides an up-to-date overview of transmission projects being developed throughout the Great Plains and Upper Midwest. This map is intended to help journalists, communities, landowners, local and state policymakers and other stakeholders track clean energy transmission developments in their region.
New and improved electric transmission is essential to the future of wind energy. Think of transmission as a catalyst, facilitator, or enabler - we are unable to develop the next generation of wind projects without a new set of lines designed to carry wind energy from where it's most abundant to where it's needed most. Similar to a railroad or interstate system, transmission is the key to bringing our energy commodities to market. A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows wind energy potential along with existing transmission infrastructure prior to recent construction of new projects.
The Center for Rural Affairs is tracking a number of transmission projects in three categories: seeking regulatory approval, under construction, and completed and in service. They are listed below.
Seeking regulatory approval
The approximately 125-mile line would connect northeastern Iowa and western Wisconsin, helping to improve reliability in the local area and the region. The line will work in combination with other Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s (MISO) Multi-Value Projects in the region, with the added transmission capacity aiding new renewable energy projects in connecting to the electric grid. The line will begin at the new Hickory Creek substation in Dubuque County, Iowa, and would then travel east to connect with the Cardinal substation in southwestern Wisconsin.
The Cardinal-Hickory Creek project will connect to other Multi-Value Projects in Iowa and Wisconsin, providing greater access and capacity for renewable energy in the region. Iowa was ranked 3rd in the nation for installed wind energy capacity in 2018, with 7,312 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity and an additional 1,984 MW under construction. Wisconsin ranks 24th for installed capacity with only 747 MW installed, but with the potential to generate 114,314 MW from wind.
Developer: American Transmission Company (ATC) and ITC Midwest
The proposed line will be developed to deliver 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy from western Kansas to Missouri, continuing into Illinois and Indiana, carrying power to areas that have a high demand for reliable, clean energy. The path will run through the north central portion of Kansas.
The western converter station would be constructed near Spearville, Kansas, while the eastern converter would be built in Ralls County, Missouri. The line will span 780 miles from Kansas to a new substation in Sullivan, Indiana. The line will then link to distribution systems serving cities in the PJM territory.
Invenergy Transmission estimates that over $5 billion of new wind projects will be needed to meet the demand created by this project, in addition to $2 billion of investment to build the line itself. The line will reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to removing more than 2 million cars from the road.
Developer: Invenergy Transmission
The $380 million transmission line project will improve system reliability and limit congestion in the Southwest Power Pool’s nine-state region. The new line will create opportunities for economic development in rural areas, and the developer’s stated purpose is to “maintain reliable supplies of electricity across its nine-state region.”
Two sections of the route will be updated. The first segment, from Gerald Gentleman Station to Cherry County and east to Holt County, covers more than 200 miles. The second section will stretch from Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) Hoskins substation near Norfolk to a new substation at Neligh.
The R-Project will provide additional transmission that can connect Nebraska’s growing renewable energy sector to the regional electric grid.
Developer: Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD)
Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois wants to build a 330-mile, 345,000-volt transmission line across central Illinois.
The project comprises of four different Multi-Value Project lines, and would stretch from West Adair, Missouri, to Sugar Creek, Indiana.
The project is designed to facilitate the delivery of renewable energy, strengthen the transmission system, provide additional transmission capacity, enhance market efficiency, and improve reliability. The line will also provide economic and reliability benefits, along with local voltage support.
COMPLETED AND IN SERVICE
This 71-mile transmission project is “a key reinforcement” for an area experiencing congestion between Iowa and Missouri, according to MidAmerican Energy, which will again split this project with ITC Midwest. In addition to relieving congestion, the project would enable new wind development along the corridor as well. As part of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) Multi-Value Projects (MVP) portfolio, these lines will be subject to regional cost allocation. In addition to creating new opportunities for wind development, this transmission project will also help reduce congestion, improve system reliability, and facilitate wholesale market competition.
The line would run from Ottumwa, in southeastern Iowa, to Adair, Missouri. From there, the project would link up with another string of power lines planned to run across central Illinois to the Indiana border.
Developer: ITC Midwest and MidAmerican Energy
The Bemidji-Grand Rapids line is designed to improve reliability for the Red River Valley, Bemidji, Grand Rapids, and north central Minnesota. The transmission line will extend 70 miles between Bemidji and Grand Rapids, in northern Minnesota. The line is part of the CapX2020 project.
The CapX2020 transmission projects are designed to support the addition of more renewable energy to the electric grid. The developer and industry groups note that the line and the entire CapX2020 project offers a chance to connect wind farms along the path, and allow the energy to be sent to neighboring states that are seeking to purchase the power to meet renewable standards.
Developer: Otter Tail Power Company
The Big Stone South to Brookings line is a 70-mile line that will run from a new substation to be built near Big Stone City, South Dakota, to a substation located in Brookings County, South Dakota. It is one of the MISO-approved multi-value projects in the region, and will help alleviate congestion and achieve mandates for renewable energy in the region.
The line is part of the CapX2020 project. The developer and industry groups note that the line and the entire CapX2020 project offers a chance to connect wind farms along the path, and allow the energy to be sent to neighboring states that are seeking to purchase the power to meet renewable standards.
Developer: Otter Tail Power and Xcel Energy
Montana-Dakota Utility and Otter Tail Power will use the 145 to 170 mile line to increase the capacity and reliability of the electrical grid in the area, as well as connect it to larger Multi-Value Projects across the region. The developers have also stated that the increase in capacity that this line will facilitate will help with the inclusion of additional energy sources, including wind energy.
The route is planned to run from a new Big Stone South substation in South Dakota—part of the Big Stone South to Brookings transmission line—and will run to a proposed substation near Ellendale, North Dakota.
Developer: Montana-Dakota Utilities Company and Otter Tail Power Company
The Brookings County-Hampton transmission project will help meet projected electric growth in southern and western Minnesota, as well as the growing areas south of the Twin Cities metro area. By providing access to wind generation in southwestern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota, this line also is designed to help the state meet its aggressive renewable energy standard, which will require 25 percent of energy to come from renewable sources.
The transmission line will run from a substation north of Brookings, South Dakota, and run 237 miles to a proposed substation in Hampton, Minnesota, which is southeast of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The developer and industry groups note that the line and the entire CapX2020 project offers a chance to connect wind farms along the path, and allow the energy to be sent to neighboring states that are seeking to purchase the power to meet renewable standards.
Developer: Great River Energy
The Center to Grand Forks transmission line is intended to improve grid reliability and meet long-term load growth needs. The project will help improve voltage support in the Red River Valley region. By freeing an already existing power line, this project will indirectly help support wind development in North Dakota.
The lines will carry electricity from the Milton R. Young station near Center, North Dakota, and will extend 247 miles to Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Developer: Minnkota Power Cooperative
The Fargo-St. Cloud transmission line is being developed to improve community reliability throughout the southern Red River Valley, as well as within the Fargo, North Dakota area, and Alexandria and St. Cloud areas in Minnesota. The project is also intended to support additional generation development, including from renewable sources, in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. The developer and industry groups note that the line and the entire CapX2020 project offers a chance to connect wind farms along the path and allow the energy to be sent to neighboring states that are seeking to purchase the power to meet renewable standards.
The Fargo-St. Cloud transmission line is one of three 345 kV lines proposed by CapX2020. The North Dakota portion will begin at the Bison Substation northwest of Fargo. From there, the line will continue across the Red River north of Oxbow. Overall, it will extend from Fargo, to Alexandria, and then to St. Cloud; addressing reliability and supporting additional generation in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.
The Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse line is intended to improve reliability and meet growing energy demands in the Twin Cities, Rochester, and La Crosse areas in Minnesota and Wisconsin. As designed, the line will also improve access to generation in southeastern Minnesota.
The approved Minnesota route stretches 80 miles from Hampton to Rochester. From there the line will cross the Minnesota border near Alma, Wisconsin. The approved Wisconsin route covers 48 miles, from Alma to Holmen. A significant portion of the route, 27 miles, will follow Highway 35 along an existing transmission corridor used by Dairyland Cooperative.
The developer and industry groups note that the line and the entire CapX2020 project offers a chance to connect wind farms along the path, and allow the energy to be sent to neighboring states that are seeking to purchase the power to meet renewable standards.
Developer: Xcel Energy
The Hitchland-Woodward transmission line will be developed to increase efficiency as well as to support the transfer of wind energy into eastern portions of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).
The line spans from Xcel Energy's substation in Hansford County, Texas, to an Oklahoma Gas and Electric substation near Woodward, Oklahoma. Transmission lines developed throughout the Panhandle will help bring in more reliable, cleaner sources of energy to the region.
Developer: Southwestern Public Service Company
The Hugo-Valliant transmission line was identified as a project that would help ease congestion across southeastern Oklahoma's transmission network, while also bringing important economic and reliability benefits to the regional grid.
The line extends from the Hugo power plant west of Fort Towson, Oklahoma, to an existing substation west of Valliant. The route runs southeast from Hugo to a point south of Raymond Gary State Park. The project aimed to increase access to a broader range of generation sources throughout southeastern Oklahoma.
Developer: ITC Great Plains
The Kansas V-Plan is designed to connect eastern and western Kansas to Nebraska and Oklahoma. This was intended to improve electric reliability as well as allow energy developers to tap into the electric grid, establishing a competitive energy market throughout the state.
As the northern portion of the greater Southwest Power Pool project known as the "X-Plan," the line also aimed to help build a stronger transmission grid that will benefit Kansas and the entire region through increased reliability.
The first segment extends from Spearville south to the new Clark County substation and east to Medicine Lodge, to connect with the ITC Great Plains KETA project. The second runs east to the Thistle substation east of Medicine Lodge, and the third segment from Medicine Lodge to Wichita.
Developer: ITC Great Plains
Part of the Southwest Power Pool Transmission Expansion Plan, this proposed 345 kV line was designed to improve reliability and efficiency, while helping to export wind energy and keep electricity rates low.
The transmission line runs from Spearville, Kansas, to Axtell, Nebraska. The project consisted of three different segments: Spearville to the Post Rock substation, Hays to the Kansas-Nebraska border, and from the Kansas-Nebraska border to Axtell.
Developer: ITC Great Plains
The purpose of this line was to address electric system reliability issues—both locally and in the Midwest—while enabling the transfer of renewable energy from wind farms in Minnesota and the Dakotas. La Crosse to Madison was also designed to provide otherwise isolated locations in Wisconsin with convenient access to transmission infrastructure.
The project’s route extends from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to northern Dane County, connecting with the CapX2020 project at Holmen. The La Crosse-Madison project is also located in an identified “renewable energy corridor,” according to the Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative, and as a location in need of additional transmission infrastructure.
Developer: American Transmission Company (ATC) and Xcel Energy
The Mark Twain transmission project is a line consisting of two segments that run from Palmyra, Missouri, to the Iowa border. The line is one of the MISO multi-value projects (MVP) approved in 2011, which aim to help reduce congestion and improve reliability for the transmission grid, and provide better access to new renewable energy sources.
One segment of the line runs from Palmyra to Kirksville, with the other segment traveling from Kirksville to the Iowa border. Ameren notes the project will increase access to new renewable energy generation in the region.
The Thumb Loop project provides a much-needed high capacity transmission line designed to meet the maximum wind potential of the Thumb Loop region. Located in the region found to have the highest wind development potential in Michigan, this project is capable of supporting more than 2,800 turbines and 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity.
In addition to creating new opportunity for wind development, this transmission project will also help reduce congestion, improve system reliability, and facilitate wholesale market competition.
The line passes through Sebewaing, Brookfield, Winsor, Oliver, Colfax, Verona, and Sigel townships; and then extends from Sigel township through Paris township and into Sanilac and St. Clair counties.
The Minnesota-Iowa line is a combination of two projects intended to alleviate congestion at 19 points on the grid, as well as provide a better connection for sending wind power from Iowa and Minnesota to Illinois and Wisconsin. Along with new opportunities for wind development, the projects will also help reduce congestion in service areas, improve reliability by allowing for continuous function of generators, and help to encourage competition by creating expanding generation options for service areas.
A portion of the project begins at the Lakefield Junction in Minnesota to the Winnebago area, then running south to connect with a new substation near Algona, Iowa. Additional lines run from Sheldon, Iowa, and Webster, Iowa, to connect with the substation near Algona. Another portion runs from Lime Creek, Iowa, south to the Iowa Falls area to a new substation located in Black Hawk County, Iowa and on to the Hazelton substation in Iowa.
Developer: ITC Midwest and MidAmerican Energy
This line is intended to meet the increased electricity demand of the St. Cloud region. In addition to reinforcing the regional grid, the line provides improved reliability and added capacity for renewable generation.
The route begins at the new Quarry Substation Site near St. Joseph and ends at the existing Monticello Substation. The developer and industry groups note the line and the entire CapX2020 project offers a chance to connect wind farms along the path, and allow the energy to be sent to neighboring states that are seeking to purchase the power to meet renewable standards.
Developer: Xcel Energy
This line is part of the Southwest Power Pool Priority Project initiative. Each of these projects was designed to reduce congestion and improved reliability, in addition to increasing access to renewable resources.
The project connects the Sibley Generating Station in Missouri to the Nebraska City substation in Nebraska, as well as a new substation located near Maryville, Missouri.
Developer: Kansas City Power & Light and Omaha Public Power District
The Reynolds-Topeka transmission line is a project in northern Indiana intended to improve the grid and provide added access for renewable energy. The line is one of 17 MISO projects across the Midwest, and will benefit customers by providing low-cost electricity and improving reliability of service in the area.
The project runs from a Northern Indiana Public Service Company substation at Reynolds, to the Burr Oak substation, and to the Hiple substation near Topeka.
Developer: Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO)
The Rockport to Greentown project is a transmission line that connects Duke Energy’s Greentown substation located near Kokomo, Indiana, to American Electric Power’s Rockport substation near Evansville, Indiana.
Part of the line is one of the MISO Multi-Value Projects, intended to improve reliability and create a new route for new renewable generation.
Developer: Pioneer Transmission
The Rose Hill-Sooner project was intended to improve reliability within the region. The line features two distinct but connected segments.
The first begins at the Rose Hill Substation near Wichita and runs to the Oklahoma border, and the second continues to the Sooner Substation near Red Rock.
Developer: Westar Energy and Oklahoma Gas and Electric
The Spoon River transmission line is a project intended to improve grid reliability, as well as provide connections for renewable energy. It was also one of the MISO multi-value projects (MVP) approved in 2011, that will not only help Illinois but the larger regional grid.
The line runs from the Sandburg substation near Galesburg to the Fargo station near Peoria, Illinois. The developer previously noted that the project will improve access for renewable energy sources in the area, and also assist the state of Illinois achieve its Renewable Portfolio Standard of 25 percent by 2025.
The Y Plan transmission project was intended to improve the region's electric grid by integrating eastern and western areas, and by facilitating the addition of renewable generation into the electric grid.
The line begins near Colwich, Kansas, connects to Medicine Lodge, and then continues south to the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Project developers noted that the line represented a vital step to developing a stronger transmission system that would allow for the connection of renewable energy resources in the region.
Developer: Prairie Wind Transmission
Clean Energy Transmission Principles
In considering clean energy transmission, we urge attention to the following principles which reflect the concerns and priorities of a broad set of stakeholders affected by clean energy transmission. We also urge open and transparent planning by regional transmission operators that include opportunities for public input and participation and consideration of a broad range of public policy goals.
- Make more effective use of the existing transmission system first. If retiring existing coal, deploying distributed generation, or improving energy efficiency can achieve a comparable and timely increase in renewable generation or be used to achieve needed reliability upgrades, those options should be pursued.
- Upgrading existing transmission in key locations or adding capacity to existing transmission corridors or other public right-of-ways should be maximized to avoid further disruption of private property.
- New transmission should predominately support wind, solar and other renewable development, and the retirement of existing coal. Through market regulations and incentives, renewable energy should be prioritized over other generation.
- The cost of new transmission supporting renewable generation should be broadly allocated among customers and across geographic regions that will benefit from the added reliability or clean energy delivery provided by the new capacity.
- New transmission should be routed to avoid sensitive natural areas. When new transmission must pass through sensitive natural areas, care should be taken to mitigate negative impacts.
- Landowners, community groups and public interest groups with a stake in a proposed transmission line should be engaged early in the planning process and new transmission corridors should avoid disrupting important community institutions.
- Property owners and occupants directly affected by a new transmission line should receive a fair share of the economic benefits from wind development projects. One-time payments may be negotiated with landowners prior to development or multiple payments may be continuous and tied to future project revenue.
- Communities affected should be provided an opportunity to benefit economically from increased transmission capacity through common interconnection standards that facilitate local development of smaller scale projects. Smaller scale projects could connect to new transmission lines or existing lines experiencing reduced load as the result of new capacity.