ITC Transmission, a subsidiary of ITC Holdings Corp., has announced that its “Thumb Loop” high-voltage transmission project is complete. ITC invested about $510 million to build the 345,000-volt (345 kV) line, which is the backbone of a system designed to meet the maximum wind energy potential of the Thumb area. It will also contribute to regional system reliability and facilitate wholesale market competition.

“Conceiving and completing the Thumb Loop project demonstrates the value of forward-thinking, collaborative planning between the state and key stakeholders,” says Joseph Welch, CEO of ITC Holdings. “It’s a prime example of the effectiveness of ITC’s planning process, which identified the transmission needed to facilitate Michigan’s renewable energy goals while also strengthening the regional transmission grid. This project brings an increase in transmission system capacity and reliability while providing more efficient transmission of renewable energy. It also created jobs and will have a meaningful near and long-term impact on the economy of the region and the entire state.”

Gov. Rick Snyder also said the project is a good investment for Michigan. “It has allowed us to expand our agricultural processing abilities and add low-cost renewable energy to our grid and saved ratepayers real money. It is a good example of why we need to evaluate transmission in our overall planning to ensure an adaptable, affordable, reliable and environmentally protective energy future.”

During construction, ITC estimates the project had a direct impact of $366 million on the state’s economy, including employment of local contractors, vendors and suppliers. The Thumb-area economy benefited from the demand for supplies and services such as concrete, hardware, fuel, gravel and trucking, and food, lodging and other construction crew needs.

Studies by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the authority that oversees transmission for a 15-state area, show that projects like the Thumb Loop can produce benefits for Michigan customers, and the region, of between two-and-a-half and four times the project cost.

Building started on the Thumb Loop in 2011, and covers about 140 miles of double-circuit 345,000 volt (345 kV) transmission lines and four new substations serving areas of Tuscola, Huron, St. Clair and Sanilac counties. More lines and facilities will be needed as wind generators go into service and connect to the backbone system.
Thumb Loop by the Numbers:
*  Value: Estimated $510 million
*  Miles of wire: 1,680 miles, enough to stretch from the Thumb to Salt Lake City, UT
*  Number of steel monopoles: 789
*  Number of steel lattice towers: 32
*  Distance between poles: 250 – 1,200 feet
*  Average number of poles per mile: 6
*  Height of poles: 125 – 180 feet
*  Amount of concrete for pole & tower foundations: 62,639 cubic yards (equals 6,264 mixer truckloads)

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