An ambitious power project is trying to link West Coast solar production with the Midwest wind, to create an interstate transmission plus storage project that would deliver renewable energy to almost the whole country.
Power from the Prairie is the vision of Rob Schulte and Fred Fletcher that would produce massive benefits for the country’s energy sector and its customers; it will enable an interconnected web of solar and wind that would balance itself out on the grid.
As many other renewable projects, this one faces new opportunities as president-elect Biden gets closer to the oval office; president Trump dismissed the project’s importance in the past; now, Schulte and Fletcher are looking for developers, investors and other entities to develop a viability study.
As the scale of the project is too large, almost 600 miles from California solar production and Midwest wind, to southwestern Wyoming and to northwestern Iowa, it cannot be absorbed by a single corporation. Also, multiple federal, state and local regulatory steps would be necessary to be implemented.
Nevertheless, Power from the Prairie envisions solar power produced in California meeting the Midwest peak demand; and when West solar production begins to fall by the afternoon, wind produced in the Midwest balancing the grid to that end.
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Clean power all across the country, the vision
In other words, a renewable corridor arcing from Los Angeles to Wyoming, and then across the north to Chicago. That 2000-mile route is mostly already constructed, as the Southern Transmission System already powers, from coal, energy from Utah to Los Angeles.
The TransWest Express and the Zephyr Power Transmission Project are too in that mix, powering from Delta to Sinclair, and Wyoming. An underground transmission known as SOO Green, currently under development, will run wind from northwest Iowa to a connection in the PJM grid.
The missing piece would be a wind facility located in Gregory County, in south Dakota, that would cross Nebraska and Iowa. “That could unlock thousands of megawatts of new wind power in Nebraska and South Dakota,” Schulte said in a statement.
As to now, Schulte and Fletcher are looking for investors and interested companies who would provide funding to create such corridor. The estimated investment for it would be up to $9,5 billion, and it would include a 1,200 MW salt cavern storage project that would replace the coal plant in Wyoming.