Big transmission lines have not been built in the U.S. for decades. Now there are multiple projects all driven by bringing renewable energy from remote locations to market. At the CG/LA Global Infrastructure Leadership Forum today two companies presented on major transmission projects that managed to overcome the regulatory and societal hurdles that are the major challenges for new transmission lines. On average in the U.S. infrastructure projects require 9.5 years to get the required permitting. These projects include have been fully permitted after 8 years or less partly because of their innovative solution to people's reaction to unsightly transmission towers.
The first project (Champlain Hudson Power Express) is a 1,000 MW high voltage direct current (HVDC) line over 333 miles from Quebec to New York City. Quebec power is nearly 100% hydro and this power will help both the State of New York and the City of New York reach their clean energy objectives. In addition as the Indian Point nuclear power plant is scheduled to be shutdown, this power line from Quebec will cover about half of the power that will be lost with the Indian Point shutdown. The innovative feature of this power line is that it is entirely underground, or to put it more accurately, underground and underwater. It's route is across Lake Champlain and down the Hudson River. This has made it much easier to acquire the required right of way and complete permitting because one of the biggest issues with transmission lines is the visibility of pylons and lines.
A second project (New England Clean Power Link)has taken the same approach to bring a 1,000 MW buried HVDC to Vermont. This line is 154 miles long, is completely underwater and underground and is fully permitted. This has been in development only since 2013 and is scheduled to be in service by 2020. That is remarkably fast for a transmission line in the U.S.
The third project is one of several being developed by Clean Line. This is the Plains and Eastern Clean LIne Line linking wind generation in the Texas panhandle to Arkansas and Tennessee. This is a HVDC line HVDC line delivering 500 MW to Arkansas and 3,500 MW to western Tennessee. This is a traditional above ground transmission line which made getting all the stakeholders on side was more challenging than for undergound lines. Clean Line credits its communications department, which held thousands of meeting with stakeholders, for its success in completing the permitting in only 8 years. It is expected that construction on this line will begin by the end of the year. This remarkable project won two awards at the CG/LA conference including Strategic Project of the Year.
Siting uses geotechnology intensively. In both cases the project people had to be willing and able to optimize the routing based on stakeholder input. For example, one stakeholder wanted the line to pass along his southern property boundary instead of the northern boundary. Micro siting and the ability to change the route on a moment's notice requires accessible, precision locating and the ability to show stakeholders exactly where the line would go. Geospatial technology was essential to all three of these projects.