- The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) announced last week that they have approved Commonwealth Edison's proposed 70-mile-long, $251 million Grand Prairie Gateway 345-kV transmission line for northern Illinois.
- With a projected start-construction date in the second quarter of 2015 and a June 2017 in-service target, the line is expected to open access to about 1,000 megawatts of added generation for the PJM Interconnection, mostly from renewables and largely from wind.
- Opposition by landowners and communities along the proposed right-of-way brought the project before Administrative Law Judge Terrance Hilliard, who recommended against a certificate of public convenience and necessity because he found ComEd documentation insufficient. The ICC found the net benefits of between $121.1 million and $324.6 million in reduced congestion and other savings to outweigh the costs.
“Long distance transmission lines are the mother of all land use challenges,” Sonoran Institute Senior Adviser John Shepard recently told Utility Dive. "They cover a lot of ground, cross multiple landscapes, go by multiple communities, and, for the most part, the beneficiaries are the power generators at one end and the purchasers at the other end. In between, these lines have significant impacts on landscapes and communities that get limited benefits.”
Part of the reason for Judge Hilliard’s review was the city of Elgin’s demand that the portion of Grand Prairie Gateway near it to be undergrounded, a costly addition to the construction process.
By bringing western Illinois wind into the PJM system, ComEd argued, it will cut 473,000 tons of Illinois greenhouse gas emissions over 15 years. Solar, biomass, and natural gas generation may also be transmitted.
Congestion on the system identified in PJM’s annual regional planning process inhibits the lowest-cost generation from wind projects from being used.