IEC testifies in Soo Green transmission line hearing
on Wednesday, July 26, 2023
The Iowa Utilities Board heard testimony on July 11 about a novel approach to transmission lines in Iowa: Soo Green is proposing an underground direct-current line running from near Mason City to Illinois. Steve Guyer, IEC’s Energy Policy Council, provided written testimony supporting the transmission line; Steve Guyer and Michael Schmidt, IEC Staff Attorney, participated in the hearing in Elkader, Iowa.
IEC’s testimony showed the line offers significant potential benefits for Iowans and could expand renewable energy development in the state. The ability to export and import power to another region of the electric grid can improve reliability when demand is high, and also sell wind-powered generation to other states.
The line provides these benefits while relying on existing right-of-way and avoiding many challenges of overhead transmission line development, including environmental and land use impacts. By following the railroad and highway, the line avoids sensitive areas and requires less clearing of land to allow maintenance.
The line would follow the Canadian Pacific railroad for most of its route and a short stretch of U.S. Highway 18. In the hearing, representatives from Soo Green noted that other countries have used direct current transmission lines (as opposed to alternating current lines) for decades. Iowa does not have any high-voltage direct current lines today, but the new approach could be a model for transmission development.
This project is different from previous transmission line development IEC has been involved in, such as Cardinal Hickory-Creek, because those were within the same region of the grid. By crossing the regional boundary into the neighboring territory (PJM), Soo Green can provide power between regions. Iowa’s regional grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), has planned more transmission within the region for the future.
Regional grid operators must review and approve transmission across regional grid boundaries before it can operate. In addition to more localized transmission needs, MISO has found a need for greater transmission across regional seams. The Soo Green line does exactly that, adding benefits for the regional electric grid.
The regional grid operators are still reviewing the Soo Green project, with decisions expected to take many months. The IUB will now evaluate whether Soo Green meets the legal requirements under state law to approve the project and is likely to issue a decision later this year.
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