High Voltage Direct Current Power Transmission

Wind generated electricity is about the cheapest and certainly the fastest growing source of energy in the United States, maybe the world. Currently there is an excess of wind power to our west but few consumers in the area. The capacity to move the clean sustainable wind generated electricity from the plains where it is abundant to other areas where the people are limits it utilization.

Both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Plains and Eastern Clean Line have held meetings in Arkansas and Oklahoma to introduce the public to a proposed 750 mile electric transmission line which may be constructed over the next few years. This power line will move wind generated electricity from the plains to southeastern states. Of the several proposed corridors, all pass through Pope county somewhere between just north of Russellville to north of Dover. The transmission line terminates at Memphis. Wherever possible they will follow established rights-of-way to minimize disturbance to land owners.

The transmission line was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last year to move electric power from the plains- Northwest Texas, Northwest Oklahoma, and Southwest Kansas to consumers in the southeastern United States, basically the Tennessee Valley Authority.

One interesting feature of this power line is the employment of direct current transmission. One usually thinks of direct current (DC) as the type of electricity utilized in devices with batteries such as cell phones or flashlights. On the other hand alternating current (AC) is the stuff of home wiring. Virtually all transmission lines in the country are AC, but technological advances now make DC line transmission more cost effective. High voltage power moved over three hundred miles is now better done with direct current.

The high voltage direct current (HVDC) line which when complete can move 3.5 Gigawatts electric at 500 kilovolts. To put this in perspective this is enough transmission capacity to deliver the energy equivalent of about four nuclear reactors or enough electricity to power over one million homes. Little to none of this power will be “dropped off” in Arkansas for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is we don’t need it, at least right now. The other is the expense to step down and transform the HVDC to lower voltage AC so that it is compatible with our grid.

The transmission line is all about the future of electricity in the United States. A big issue of our energy future is the need to convert to cleaner sustainable energy sources but transmission and storage are impediments.

Midwestern wind power is a big part of our energy future. Theoretically electricity generated from wind farms from the Canadian border to Texas could power the whole country. It won’t because there is wind elsewhere such as the coastal areas, and of course there are other sustainable energy sources. The point is we have an abundance of clean energy potential. The future is bright and will be lit with wind, solar and other types of sustainable energy.

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