By Kristi Sturgill, Staff Writer Claremore Daily Progress
The Department of Energy recently approved Clean Line Energy to pursue the construction of a 705-mile direct current transmission line from Woodward, Okla. to Tennessee.
Pelco Structural LLC was awarded a $300 million contract with Clean Line Energy, which will bring nearly 200 new jobs to Claremore and the surrounding area. The company will construct the project’s tubular steel transmission structures for Clean Line Energy.
“It is transformative for Claremore. Pelco will double in size overnight. It is transformative for all of Oklahoma. It is a business development tool for the whole state,” said Phil Albert, president of Pelco Structural LLC. “We have about 183 employees today. In a very short period of time we will add about 100 jobs and by the time the project is over we will have doubled our employment.”
The project will provide $300 million in revenue for Pelco Structural LLC.
“The Clean Line project would have a significant impact on jobs in Claremore. The latest round of layoffs in our community from the recent plunge in oil prices has been painful for many local families and the cycle is by no means finished. This project would provide quality jobs for our citizens in industries not reliant on the cyclical nature of oil and gas,” said Jeri Koehler, executive director of the Claremore Industrial and Economic Development Authority.
This is the first use of Congressional Authority by the Department of Energy with the objective of promoting transmission development.
“Moving remote and plentiful power to areas where electricity is in high demand is essential for building the grid of the future,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said in a Press Release. “Building modern transmission that delivers renewable energy to more homes and businesses will create jobs, cut carbon emissions, and enhance the reliability of our grid.”
Trish Williams, Outreach Associate for Clean Line Energy, said the company had to meet a lot of requirements through the Department of Energy for the approval from the agency, which included a 3-year environmental study, and the Department of Energy provided a preferred route for the transmission line.
“The federal government has thoroughly vetted this line,” said Albert.
Williams said some wind farms already exist in the Woodward area, but more are likely to be built.
Moving forward, Clean Line Energy will need to finish getting permits with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and buying all the easements. Also, for the project to progress, agreements will have to be made with Cherokee Nation and Arkansas.
“We are in talks with the Cherokee Nation right now because they do have the water rights,” said Williams. “We are still working with Arkansas, and we still have some challenges, but we are confident that we can work with the land owners and get those easements purchased.”
A Department of Energy press release on March 25 stated, “The federal government will only exercise eminent domain as a last resort — after the project has met significant milestones to prove its viability — and the process will provide every opportunity for the land owner to maximize the value of their land in a transparent and fair manner.”
Williams said Clean Line Energy expects to start construction in 2017 and anticipates the transmission line to be complete and operating in 2020.
“We are talking about a $7 billion dollar additional wind farm investment in the state of Oklahoma. Over the next 20 years that means $1 billion in funding for education,” said Albert.
Clean Line Energy has also stated the company has made a commitment to employ local contractors for the project.
The transmission line will have two drop-off points, one in Arkansas and one in Tennessee.