The Biden administration has unveiled plans to allocate $1.3 billion in new federal funding to facilitate the construction of three expansive electrical transmission lines, aiming to enhance the national power grid and bolster the integration of renewable energy across the United States.
These transmission lines are slated to traverse key regions, with one extending from Arizona to New Mexico, another spanning from Nevada to Utah, and a third passing through Vermont and New Hampshire, ultimately extending into Canada. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi announced that these initiatives will substantially increase the incorporation of wind, solar, and Canadian hydropower into the grid, contributing approximately 3.5 gigawatts of additional electrical capacity—equivalent to powering around 3 million homes.
Despite the positive strides these projects represent, the Department of Energy’s assessment underscores the need for approximately 30 gigawatts of additional interregional capacity to fortify the national grid. While the initial three projects are financed through the bipartisan infrastructure law, the prospect of advancing additional initiatives may encounter challenges in a politically divided Congress.
Granholm emphasized the urgency highlighted in a recent Department of Energy report, which emphasized the imperative need to expand transmission infrastructure to enhance reliability, resilience, and affordability while alleviating grid congestion. The selected projects are envisioned to address these objectives effectively.
Over the past decade, previous attempts to expand electrical transmission in New England and connect the region to Canada’s hydropower faced obstacles due to opposition from environmental groups and local landowners. However, the Biden administration is approaching these projects with strategic considerations, seeking to leverage existing rights-of-way and augment the capacity of current lines to assuage concerns.
According to Zaidi, the administration is exploring innovative approaches, such as utilizing existing right-of-ways or creative pathways that minimize disruption. Zaidi cited the success of a Midwest transmission line, built along existing railroad infrastructure, as an example of this strategy. The objective is to find low-conflict paths that connect low-cost energy sources with consumers eager to benefit from reduced energy bills.
The timeline for construction is set to commence in 2025 for the Southwest lines, while the New England project, involving the installation of an underground transmission cable, is scheduled to break ground in 2026. Depending on construction timelines, these projects could be operational by 2027 or 2028, ushering in a new era of enhanced energy infrastructure and increased capacity for renewable energy integration.