December 2, 2022
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St. Louis Park company behind new $ 2.5 billion Soo Green Line underground power line project

By on October 2, 2021 0


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The Soo Green Line would be a unique addition to the US electricity grid. Running along a rail corridor, the large underground power line would transport low-cost renewable energy from the Upper Midwest to markets in the east.

Now, if he can only overcome the obstacles in the process of approving power lines.

The 350 mile high voltage direct current (HVDC) line would run from Mason City, Iowa, to a town about 50 miles west of Chicago. The company behind the $ 2.5 billion project, Direct Connect Development Co., is based in St. Louis Park and funded by a global consortium of energy heavyweights.

Soo Green Line made an agreement with the Canadian Pacific Railway (successor to the Soo Line Railroad) to host the power line along its right-of-way, which solves the biggest transmission line routing problem: resistance from landowners and landowners. undesirable environmental impacts.

“Transmission underground makes great sense for larger projects,” said Joe DeVito, president of Direct Connect. “The main problem most people have is ‘field of view’ – they don’t like to look at it.”

The Soo Green Line has other advantages. As an HVDC line, its electricity “line loss” due to heat would be less than that of a traditional alternating current (AC) power line. And at 525 kilovolts, it would be able to pass much more electricity than a standard 345 kilovolt AC line.

Soo Green is offered as a “merchant” power line. Society does not have traditional taxpayers, such as utilities, on whom to rely for funding. Instead, power line users would foot the bill, giving Soo Green investors a return on their investment.

“We are getting married [electricity] generators and buyers, ”DeVito said.

The idea for the Soo Green Line arose out of a plan years ago by CNN founder Ted Turner to build a wind farm on his South Dakota property. Without a transmission option, Trey Ward, a lawyer working for Turner, developed the idea of ​​a long distance underground power line.

Ward, CEO of Direct Connect, works in North Carolina. DeVito, an electrical industry veteran and engineer by training, works in St. Louis Park, as do half of the company’s 10 employees. More than 100 additional people are working on the project for Direct Connect partners.

Soo Green is approximately 80% owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners K / S, a Danish private equity fund and a major investor in renewable energy projects.

Siemens Energy, a large German company supplying key equipment for the project, holds 10%; Jingoli Power, the line’s main construction contractor, based in New Jersey, 5%. Pennsylvania utility company PPL also bought a 5% stake last week.

The Soo Green Line is rare as it crosses two major US power grids: MISO, which includes Minnesota and 14 other central states; and PJM, which covers 13 states, mainly in the east, but also parts of Illinois and Indiana.

Government regulatory approvals don’t appear to be a problem, but crossing PJM territory is. PJM, like MISO, is a non-profit organization owned by utilities and other energy players. They both have a thicket of rules for a new transmission.

Since the Soo Green Line would carry power from MISO and not PJM, PJM sees it as a power generation project and not a transmission line. But like MISO, PJM has a long line of generators, mostly solar and wind projects, already waiting to be connected.

Obstacles cause delays – big. Soo Green had initially planned to start construction by the end of this year and to transport electricity by the fourth quarter of 2024. The processing time in the PJM queue would push this date back by more than two years. , says Soo Green.

In June, Soo Green filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, asking it to demand that PJM treat the project as a transmission project, not a generation project.

Despite the disputes, DeVito said he’s convinced Soo Green will come true.

“We have serious momentum with this project,” he said.

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