US energy company Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) has received approval from Illinois Commerce Commission for a new transmission line in a bid to reduce grid congestion, increase customers’ access to lower-cost generation, including wind power, and reduce carbon emissions.  

Construction of ComEd’s Grand Prairie Gateway Project is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of next year and be in service by 2017.

The 60-mile (97km) line will expand ComEd customers’ access to generation by approximately 1,000 MW and adds a third major transmission path across the ComEd territory in a bid to enhance reliability, particularly during extreme weather.

Delivery of low-cost energy

Terence Donnelly, executive vice president and COO at ComEd, said: “As the competitive electricity market expands, transmission lines become congested over time, just like highways do as the communities around them grow.

“This congestion impedes the flow of low-cost energy, increasing the cost of delivering that energy to our customers, and we’re obligated to solve that problem. We are pleased that the Commission has recognized the need for this important new line, which will offset those increases just as soon as it’s energized.”

Commenting on the need for the new infrastructure, Sean Brady, regional policy manager of Wind on the Wires, said: “Congestion on the system is inhibiting the lowest cost generating plants – like wind – from getting power to customers that want it.

“These bottlenecks force wind farms to operate less efficiently and restrain the future development of more environmentally friendly wind generation in Illinois, so this project will further promote a competitive marketplace and the continued growth of wind power.”

The new line is also expected to reduce carbon emissions by 473,000 tons over 15 years.

Infrastructure investment

As the largest electric utility in Illinois, ComEd  has a service base of 5.4 million customers in northern Illinois and Pennsylvania.

The updates to cabling is part of the utility’s 10-year plan under the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, a US$2.6 billion injection into transmission equipment and smart grid technologies.