PARTNERING WITH ITC TO BRING WIND ENERGY INTO MICHIGAN’S GRID
Connecting what would become Michigan’s largest-ever wind farm became one the most complex and challenging interconnection projects in ITC’s history, requiring significant new facilities and upgrades.
NEXTera Energy Resources, a leading clean energy provider and developer of cutting-edge wind farm projects in Michigan’s Thumb area, needed a partner to provide the interconnections to the state’s electricity grid. Richard McMichael, Director of Transmission and Business Management for NEXTera, is the man on the front lines.
“I need to know what facilities have to be built, how much it will cost, what are the milestones and what are the timelines,” said McMichael. It’s McMichael’s job to ensure his wind farm projects get connected to the grid on time to meet their power delivery commitments to customers.
McMichael requested ITC to design, develop and execute interconnections for three wind farms in Michigan’s Thumb area to help meet Michigan’s renewable energy target: Tuscola Wind I, Tuscola Wind II and Pheasant Run. The three projects together represent a total of 350 megawatts, enough to power about 140,000 homes.
ITC coordinated and executed the four main steps necessary for connecting the wind farms to the grid:
- System impact studies to determine the impact of each wind farm on the grid in the area. Regional grid operator Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) conducts the studies in coordination with ITC.
- Facility studies to determine the best interconnection location and what transmission facilities and upgrades would be necessary to reliably accommodate the new generation.
- Negotiation of the Generator Interconnection Agreement (GIA) between the wind farm developer and ITC.
- Design and construction of the interconnections, including related facilities and upgrades.
ITC’s Planning department guided the process through the first three steps, coordinating with MISO and NEXTera. Senior Planning Engineer Jeff Wyman says it took a lot of coordination and attention to detail.
“Once we understand a project’s impact on the system, we can determine what grid interconnection point, facilities and upgrades each one needs,” Wyman said. “It could involve expanding an existing substation, building a new substation, upgrading a transmission line or some combination of those. We explored all the options for these three projects, ran the cost estimates and timelines, and finalized the interconnection agreements. All told, these three steps took about a year to complete.”
For the NEXTera projects, the solutions included expanding an existing substation (Manning) for Tuscola Wind I, and building new substations for Tuscola Wind II (Dixon) and Pheasant Run (Stein).
“We had less than a year to get these done, so it definitely took some extra focus and attention to start fast and stay ahead of the calendar. Everybody from ITC and NEXTera brought their “A” game, and the collaboration was excellent. The NEXTera team was first rate, so when any issues came up – and they always do – the teams were able to address and resolve them quickly. All three projects proceeded smoothly and went into service on time.”–Jason Sutton, ITC’s Manager of Project Engineering
Because two of the projects – Tuscola Wind II and Pheasant Run – had to be completed on the same timeline by the end of 2013, ITC assembled a strong project team to work on both projects simultaneously. The team included more than a dozen ITC experts from planning, engineering, operations, material procurement, real estate, community affairs and other specialists needed to analyze the specific characteristics and needs of each project and work cooperatively with the developer to find the best solutions.
McMichael said working with the ITC team was a very good collaborative process. All three projects came online as scheduled and currently are delivering the expected 350 megawatts of wind energy into Michigan’s electric grid.
“ITC brought a team of pros. They have a solid, experienced and well-founded engineering staff that is very up-to-date on transmission concepts. They arrived at solutions quickly and knew what would work. And having the same team on two projects at once made everything more efficient. We stayed on track, on budget and up to date, and everything got interconnected on time. We’re extremely happy with the result.”–Richard McMichael, NEXTera Director of Transmission and Business Management