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Developers of 2,100-MW MISO-to-PJM transmission line choose cable provider

Highlights

Prysmian Group supplying cable, engineering

Line to run under, adjacent to existing rail line

Seeks to simplify siting, permitting challenges

A 2,100-MW power transmission project advanced June 21 when developer SOO Green HVDC Link selected Prysmian Group to supply cable and engineering work for the project as part of a $900 million contract to build the line connecting the Midwest Independent System Operator markets with PJM Interconnection, SOO Green said in a statement.

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In what the developers are calling the first link in a national clean energy grid, the project involves a 350-mile, 525 kV underground high-voltage direct current transmission line designed to run along existing railroad corridors from Iowa to Illinois.

SOO Green will deliver "abundant, low-cost renewable energy to population centers from Chicago to the mid-Atlantic region," according to a statement.

Direct Connect Development Company is the Minneapolis–based transmission development company advancing the SOO Green HVDC Link. The project is financially backed by Denmark's Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Siemens Energy and New Jersey-based Jingoli Power, and includes exclusive strategic partnerships with Canadian Pacific and OmniTRAX railways, according to DCDC's website.

The construction portion of the project, currently under finalization, will be done by Jingoli Power and will be added to the overall contract value, with Prysmian being responsible for the "full turnkey contact," which is also being finalized, according to the statement.

Italy-based Prysmian Group's total scope of work includes the engineering, project management, production, logistics, installation (including submarine laying), monitoring and ongoing maintenance, Rebecca Mesnil, Prysmian Group spokesperson, said in an email. The project will be managed by the company's North American operations located in Highland Heights, Kentucky.

The HVDC cables will be manufactured in Prysmian's Abbeville, South Carolina, facility.

"As can be seen recently in Texas and California, the US must invest in its transmission infrastructure and SOO Green's underground rail co-location model is a game-changer that can be replicated nationwide to build a clean energy grid," Direct Connect CEO Trey Ward said in the statement.

Overcoming siting challenges

Building large new multistate transmission projects in the US has been challenging due to permits being required from multiple local municipalities, counties, states, and various other agencies, in addition to opposition from impacted landowners and various groups.

For example, the 1,200-MW New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line that would supply Canadian hydropower into the ISO New England power grid faced renewed opposition in January when critics introduced a second referendum challenge in Maine to stop the project.

Transmission line opponents submitted Jan. 21 a total of 100,944 signatures as part of their effort to get an item included on the November ballot that would require legislative approval for certain transmission line projects. Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said in February that 80,506 signatures were valid. The item will appear on the ballot for the election on Nov. 2, 2021

In order to avoid such siting and permitting challenges, the SOO Green project seeks to replicate the model used to successfully build America's fiber optic network by placing an underground HVDC transmission line along an existing railroad from north-central Iowa to northern Illinois, according to the company's website.

President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan has embraced similar rationale for stimulating transmission development.

The plan envisions establishing a new Grid Deployment Authority at the Department of Energy that would better leverage existing rights-of-way – along roads and railways – and support creative financing tools to spur additional high priority, high-voltage transmission lines, the White House said in a statement.

Prysmian does not have direct visibility into the permitting process, Mesnil said, but SOO Green HVDC Link will notify landowners adjacent to the rail before crews begin surveys and other work, according to the company's website.

SOO Green HVDC Link will host informational meetings in each of the project counties, the website said.

Project execution will start in 2023, Mesnil said.