A San Francisco-based renewable energy company wants Mississippi regulators to approve a $1.4 billion power transmission line that would carry electricity from wind generated in Texas to the Southeast.
The Southern Cross Transmission line would extend from Texas through Desoto Parish in Louisiana, crossing into Mississippi south of Greenville. It then would run across Mississippi, to a $300 million transmission facility near Columbus, where it would tie into existing power lines.
Pattern Development, an affiliate of Pattern Energy, would begin construction next year and complete the project by 2021, according to the filing it made Tuesday to the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
The line will transmit 2,000 megawatts of electricity, about equal to the output of five typical natural gas-fired power plants. Local ratepayers would not be required to pay for the line, although they might someday pay for it indirectly if local utilities buy the power.
Company spokesman Denton Gibbes said no approval is needed from Louisiana, and Pattern already has approval to build a line in east Texas to connect to Southern Cross, although with a number of conditions , including a requirement that Pattern pay to use the Texas grid to move power to the jumping-off point.
Pattern touts the benefits of interconnectivity, but Texas authorities want to minimize federal regulation of the grid that serves most of Texas, which is basically an island from grids serving the eastern and western United States.
Power line siting approval can be contentious. Southern Cross will follow existing transmission lines in some areas, but cross new territory in others.
Some landowners have been trying to organize opponents to Southern Cross. Affected Mississippi landowners should expect to receive letters in coming weeks. The company has been meeting with individual landowners, in part at the regulators' behest. Gibbes said there have been hundreds of meetings.
The company says communities along the line will benefit from property taxes and construction spending. Supervisors in all 12 Mississippi counties crossed by the project have passed resolutions supporting it. A study on behalf of the company has estimated it will pay $246 million in property taxes in Mississippi over 30 years.
Mississippi Public Service Commission Chairman Brandon Presley says he supports the project, but wants to make sure Mississippi utilities have easy access to the power if they want to buy it. He also wants Southern Cross to maximize spending with Mississippi construction firms.
"I want to ensure that Mississippi gets every possible benefit," Presley said.
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