Wind developers/generators


  • When will the transmission be built?
    • This study recognizes the critical role transmission infrastructure plays in the interconnection and delivery of generation resources. Ensuring that the overall system is efficient and capable of interconnecting wind and other resources is a critical consideration and one that must be analyzed at a regional level. The goal of this study was to determine possible and recommended technical solutions and economic benefits for extra-high voltage transmission development within the region.
    • The plan's outcome, in combination with other studies currently being performed by SPP, MISO and PJM, will be used as input to the regional transmission planning processes and will result in transmission projects being identified.
    • Ultimately, Regional Transmission Organizations will make the final decision regarding the scope and timing of transmission projects.

  • Did others participate in this study?
    The study was designed to provide a high level of stakeholder input. Throughout the study process, open meetings were held, and interested stakeholders participated and provided input. The final stakeholder meeting was held Sept. 21, 2010.

  • What geographic areas does the study cover?
    The study focused on areas within North and South Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin. These areas are spread across three Regional Transmission Organizations, or RTOs – Midwest ISO, PJM and SPP.

  • What was the objective of the study, and what was the outcome?
    • The study's objective was to develop transmission plans that ensured reliable, environmentally friendly service for communities within the study area.
    • Phase 1 of the study conducted a reliability analysis and recommended technically sound solutions for the integration of extra-high voltage transmission into the existing transmission system. The Phase 1 report can be found on our documents page.
    • Phase 2 of the study compared the economic benefits of the alternatives identified for further study in the first phase. The Phase 2 report can be found on our documents page.

  • Did the study include feeder systems to collect wind energy from wind farms and connect it to the extra-high voltage line?
    No. This study focused on the extra-high voltage lines needed to move large volumes of power across several states. Collector systems typically are less than 230 kV. Local utilities will likely build out those collector lines to connect to the extra-high voltage transmission system.

General Public


  • When will transmission lines be built?
    • The SMARTransmission results, in combination with the results of other studies performed by SPP, Midwest ISO and PJM, will be used as input to the regional transmission planning processes and result in transmission projects being identified.
    • Regional Transmission Organizations will make the final decision regarding the scope and timing of transmission projects.

  • Where will the lines be located?
    • The plan generally identifies how the proposed transmission should interconnect with the existing system; however, it does not specifically identify the line siting or routing. General routes identified in the plans can be used for estimating project costs and aligning the proposed transmission with the existing system.
    • If projects are approved by the RTOs, each project will seek to receive all necessary approvals, including siting and routing.

  • What does extra-high voltage transmission look like? How big are the towers?
    Extra-high voltage lines have the capability of providing significant long-term benefits to large geographic areas with minimal use of right of way. For example, 765-kV towers are approximately 130 feet tall and occupy a 200-foot right of way, whereas double circuit 345 kV towers average approximately 150 feet tall and require a 150-foot right of way. Visit www.electrictransmissionamerica.com for additional information.

  • How is SMARTransmission different than Green Power Express?
    • This study was not related to Green Power Express. It was a collaborative effort with direct involvement by a group of industry leaders who have local and technical knowledge of system needs. The group believes that extra-high voltage transmission will bring significant benefits to the region if planned and correctly effectuated.
    • Study sponsors are utilities in the study region with retail service territories that cover large areas in both the PJM and Midwest ISO footprints.
    • The study analyzed the connection of renewable energy and the impact of an overlay system on utilities’ existing transmission facilities.

  • What will the project cost?
    The final cost estimate will depend on the final line route and the number of substations associated with the transmission plan that is built. It is estimated that the project will cost approximately $25 billion over the next 20 years.

  • Who will pay for the project or lines?
    Cost allocation is not within the study’s scope. It is being discussed at regional and federal levels.

Utilities


  • How is this different than the Regional Generator Outlet study work done by the Midwest ISO and others?
    • The study's sponsors are industry leaders focused on extra-high voltage transmission overlay solutions that can be incorporated into current and future Midwest ISO, PJM and SPP studies.
    • Quanta provided an independent plan that transcends regional boundaries.

  • Was this only a 765-kV study, or were other voltages considered?
    All appropriate transmission voltage levels were considered, including 345 kV, 765 kV and HVDC.

  • Are study sponsors the anticipated transmission owners of extra-high voltage lines in the area?
    Project ownership will be determined at a later point in time if the study results in one or more viable projects. Sponsors, along with others, may have an interest in ownership of such projects.

  • What did it mean to be a sponsor?
    Sponsors agreed to:
    • Financially support the study.
    • Provide input to the study along with other stakeholders.
    • Meet with regulators and interested stakeholders.
    • Provide resources needed to assist Quanta in performing the study.

  • How detailed was the study?
    The study recommended high level technical and economic transmission plans that include proposed electrical configurations (i.e., estimated line miles and substations), on-ramps for renewable generation and off-ramps for load centers.

Politicians/Regulators


  • Did this study address cost allocation?
    • No. The study recommended technical configurations for the study area.
    • Cost allocation is being discussed at the regional and federal levels; it was not within the study's scope.

  • How is the SMARTransmission study different than the Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative and other studies, including state-initiated studies to evaluate the impact of wind?
    • Sponsors of the UMTDI are the governors of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. They are focused on meeting the renewable energy standards and goals in those states.
    • The SMARTransmission study focused on an expanded regional area that includes the UMTDI region.
    • Sponsors of the SMARTransmission study are industry leaders focused on a possible extra-high voltage transmission overlay solution that can be incorporated in current and future Midwest ISO and PJM studies and integrated with existing studies.
    • Quanta worked with stakeholders and sponsors to assess extra-high voltage transmission alternatives that could reliably and economically meet system needs.

  • Will this study result in a FERC filing? If so, when?
    Project ownership will be determined at a later point if the plan results in one or more viable projects. Project developers could pursue regulatory filings, including a possible FERC filing.

  • Did the SMARTransmission study focus on economic or reliability factors?
    The study was performed in two phases. The first phase considered reliability factors and identified extra-high voltage transmission solutions for the study area, and the second phase compared the anticipated benefits of the proposed plans to the study region.

  • What economic benefits were considered as part of the study?
    The SMARTransmission study evaluated the economic benefits of the alternatives selected from the Phase 1 analysis based on the metrics listed below:
    • Generation production costs;
    • Load costs; and
    • Emission costs.

  • Did you work with the Regional Transmission Organizations? Did the SMARTransmission study benefit or complement Regional Transmission Organizations' initiatives?
    • The study incorporated information from studies done by the RTOs. The results of the study will serve as input into the RTOs' plans.
    • The study supports the RTOs' plans and provides independent analysis to support their objectives.
    • Many of the sponsors are members of the RTOs and have a vested interest in ensuring the best technical and economic plan is implemented and includes utility involvement.
    • Study sponsors solicited input from all interested parties, reviewed existing ideas and sought to complement existing practical initiatives.

  • What was the role of states in this study?
    • State representatives participated as stakeholders in the study.
    • State policy objectives, such as Renewable Portfolio Standards, were included as assumptions of the study.
    • Transmission expansion plans within each state were considered.

  • Why another study?
    SMARTransmission was designed to move discussion and debate forward. It covered a wide geographic area and looked across the seams of three Regional Transmission Organizations – SPP, Midwest ISO and PJM – so it considered some of the questions left unanswered in previous studies. Given the cost associated with implementing renewable portfolio standards, the sponsors believed it was worthwhile to have several studies addressing similar issues from various perspectives.

  • Why this group?
    The sponsors saw a need, due to the geography of their systems, expertise in transmission operations and concentration of renewable resources in their footprints to embark on a joint study that would enable the integration of a significant amount of wind generation. Combined, the sponsors have a unique perspective on the needs of this portion of the U.S. electric system.

Analysts


  • What is the relationship between study participants and those who will build and own?
    • Project ownership will be determined at a later point in time if the plan results in one or more viable projects.
    • The sponsors, along with others, may have an interest in the ownership of such projects.
    • No projects will be built without necessary approvals and routing and siting permits.

  • What is the relationship between this project and FERC’s interregional workshops?
    • The sponsors are industry leaders focused on extra-high voltage transmission overlay solutions that can be incorporated into current and future SPP, Midwest ISO and PJM studies.
    • Quanta considered the transmission system requirements and provided an independent and optimal recommended plan.
    • The study is independent of FERC's interregional initiative; however, it will likely provide valuable input.

  • Did the SMARTransmission study assume wind generation would be built and focus on delivering the generation?
    • Yes. The study assumed large amounts of wind generation will be developed to meet RPS requirements. RTO queues currently contain numerous potential wind projects.
    • This study evaluated the impact of integrating large amounts of renewable generation across the transmission system.

  • Did the study get down to the level needed for siting?
    • No. The study defined technical configurations needed to provide reliable transfer of large amounts of wind power to load centers. The plans identified general areas and high-level possible routes, but no siting or routing was conducted as part of the study. General routes identified in the plans were used to estimate costs and align the transmission alternatives with the existing system.
    • The RTOs will determine if these projects are included in regional plans.
    • If approved, each project will be required to fulfill the requirements of the siting and routing regulatory processes.

  • Why was NorthWestern Energy involved with both the Green Power Express and this group's study?
    NorthWestern wants to support development of renewable resources with transmission to address the utility industry's electric generation resource issues and be involved in plans that ultimately solve the transmission issue.