Wind energy may soon be blowing into West Tennessee thanks to a massive wind farm project based out of Oklahoma. The project, however, is still working its way through the approval process.
The Tennessee portion of the larger Plains and Eastern Clean Line wind energy project is located north of Millington, just inside the Shelby County limits. The project will span more than 700 miles to include Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee, aiming to deliver 3,500 megawatts of wind energy to more than a million households.
The project, spearheaded by Clean Line Energy, is currently undergoing a federal environmental impact statement review by the U.S. Department of Energy. A public meeting was held earlier this month to gather comments, but the public has until March 19th to provide comments at www.plainsandeasterneis.com.
The environmental impact statement identifies the proposed route for the transmission line. Since the route will cut through individual property owners' land, Clean Line Energy is seeking comment on the route. In most areas, the final easement of the transmission line will be between 150 to 200 feet wide.
Because of the right-of-way needs for the project, the Plains and Eastern Clean Line has stirred up some opposition from landowners, especially in Arkansas. But Max Schilstone, the director of business development for Clean Line Energy Partners, touted wind energy's affordable cost and eco-friendliness.
"The actual cost of generating wind energy has dropped dramatically," Schilstone said. "As utilities such as [the Tennessee Valley Authority] look to broaden their assets and are seeking other ways they can provide affordable energy to their customers, they look at all resources. Wind energy is one of those components that has now become very affordable and one that has garnered a lot of attention. It's clean [and] it doesn't have emissions."
Scott Banbury, the conservation programs coordinator for the Sierra Club's Tennessee chapter, said the 4,000 megawatts of power that is proposed to be generated by the wind energy project could be the answer the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is looking for as the authority updates its Integrated Resource Plan, which addresses energy needs over the next 10 to 15 years. The TVA provides the power that MLGW sells to Memphis residents. The wind energy will be going through the TVA grid and can be sold by the TVA.
"We believe [the TVA's] plan needs to be met by renewable energy sources," Banbury said. "The Sierra Club is encouraging [TVA] to make commitments to buy that power, rather than wheeling it through to other utilities."
"The reason Western Tennessee was chosen is because TVA has one of their largest connection points that can accommodate the size of the project we're developing," Schilstone said. "The project is a large infrastructure opportunity, even though it is a small footprint of a right-of-way."
The project will also offer hundreds of jobs to Memphis-area residents, according to Schilstone.
"One of the big aspects of the project is to ensure we drive as much job opportunity to the local community as much as we can," he said.
If everything goes according to plan, construction to build the wind structures can begin as early as 2016. Delivery of wind power could begin by 2018.