What We're Thinking

Guest Blog: GE Energy Connections President and CEO Russell Stokes

Posted on 11/1/2016 by Russell Stokes

Lighting up 1 Million US Homes with Clean Energy

Clean energy has experienced its largest growth in expansion and consumption in the last few years and will continue to grow in years to come. It’s no longer a question of whether renewables will be part of our energy mix but how fast and efficiently we will make it happen.  I happen to agree with GE’s Renewables chief that renewable energy has gone mainstream.  But what does that mean for the grid of the future?

We have the natural resources: wind, solar, water and biomass. We even have the technology to harness this power in ways that are reliable, efficient and cost effective. But we’re still working on connecting the dots. We need to strengthen the infrastructure that will deliver clean energy from where it is produced (usually in rural or remote areas) to the population centers that need it most.

America is a great example. It has a wealth of sustainable resources. It has viable wind farms up and running. But for the U.S. to reach its renewable energy goals, the transmission grid must continue to evolve and be reinforced.

That’s why GE Energy Connections is proud to be joining forces with Clean Line Energy on what is set to be the largest clean energy infrastructure project in the U.S.  the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project will be the first overhead, high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission link to be built in the U.S. in over 20 years. It will stretch for 720 miles from wind farms in the Oklahoma Panhandle, eastwards into Arkansas. From here it will hook up to existing networks in Tennessee, the Mid-South and Southeast, providing 4,000 megawatts of low-cost, sustainable energy to over one million homes.

This will be GE’s first HVDC project in the United States since acquiring Alstom’s energy portfolio last year. This addition to our portfolio was critical.  HVDC technology provides the most efficient means of connecting wind generation to distant end-use customers. Like interstate highways, HVDC links can carry large electricity loads, quickly. And they lose a lot less energy along the way compared to traditional methods.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) approved the $2.5 billion Plains & Eastern Clean Line in March, citing the project’s ability to “serve the public interest by facilitating renewable energy development, stimulating economic development, generating revenues for needed public investment, and doing so while minimizing the impact to landowners and the natural environment." That’s a big vote of confidence and GE is privileged to be a part of this project overall. I see this project becoming a model for further growth in the U.S. renewable energy industry.  It demonstrates the need to think collectively: pairing clean energy projects with systems in infrastructure that deliver safely and efficiently. This is our business: connecting energy to people.