By Mary Drier
HURON COUNTY — With the Tuscola County section of the “Thumb Loop Project” nearly complete, International Transmission Company (ITC) officials celebrated that milestone Tuesday and outlined plans for the next phases of the project.
ITC started construction of the Thumb Loop in April near the Bauer Substation in Tuscola Township.
“The Tuscola County portion of the project is about 85 percent done,” said ITC Michigan President Gregory Ioanidis.
Of the 144 poles in that portion of the project in Tuscola County, 127 are set, and 12 of the 25 miles of conduit has been strung so far.
The Huron County section of the project, which will extend into Sanilac County, will have 209 poles. So far 34 foundations are done with 12 poles set.
“We are off to a good start with the first two phases of three,” said Ioanidis, noting that part will be done in the fall of 2013.
From Huron County the line will go to Sanilac County and to St. Clair County.
Another phase will be doing some parallel engineering, design and getting right-of-ways. Work will be done in St. Clair County towards Sanilac County. With phase three, connecting Huron County to Sanilac and St. Clair county work.
“That’s expected to be completed by the end of 2015,” said Ioanidis.
Overall the $510 million project will consist of about 140 miles of double-circuit 345,000-volt transmission lines and include four new substations. The Bauer substation is in Tuscola County. There will be a Rapson Substation near Bad Axe in Huron County, the Banner Substation near Sandusky in Sanilac County, and the Fritz Substation near Port Huron in St. Clair County.
The ITC project is the “backbone” of a system designed to meet the identified maximum wind energy potential of the Thumb region and will be capable of supporting a maximum capacity of about 5,000 MW.
“By law, the system was designed to meet the minimum and maximum wind potential of the area,” he said.
In October 2008, Michigan passed the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act (Public Act 295), which created the Wind Energy Resource Zone Board to study and identify regions with the highest wind potential. The board identified four prospective regions. Region 4, which is the Thumb area, displayed the highest potential for wind energy in the state. Between 1,000-1,200 wind turbines are being planned for development in the area.
However, back when the project started, the state’s renewable energy mandate was 10 percent renewable fuel by 2015. Since then, there is an initiative of having 25 percent renewable fuel by 2025 that is a proposal on Tuesday’s election ballot. If voters approve that, there will be more alternative energy farms constructed.
According to Tucola County Economic Development Director Steve Erickson, energy companies are looking for land plots of at least 20 acres for solar farm developments.
ITC Transmission is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ITC Holdings Corp., which is the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company. The company is based in Novi, Michigan. The company owns, operates and maintains approximately 2,800 circuit miles of transmission line in southeast Michigan, serving a population of 5.1 million.
Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at email@example.com.