American Electric Power (AEP) is evaluating the feasibility of building a multistate, extra-high-voltage transmission project across the northern Midwest to support the development of renewable energy.

AEP proposes building the first 765-kilovolt (kV) extra-high-voltage transmission lines to connect major wind developments in the Dakotas and surrounding states to the existing 765-kV network that ends near Chicago. The western terminus of the project would be near a 2 gigawatt wind generation project in North Dakota.

The proposal is part of AEP’s vision of an expanded national transmission grid to support the development of large-scale renewable generation and more efficiently use existing electricity production and delivery infrastructure.

“The Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa have some of the very best wind generation resources in the United States, but the wind potential in this region cannot be developed unless we build a very efficient transmission superhighway to bring this clean, renewable generation to population and electricity load centers,” said Michael G. Morris, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer.

The transmission proposal is in the conceptual stage, but it is anticipated that linking northern Midwest wind resources with the existing extra-high-voltage transmission infrastructure in the Chicago region will likely require more than 1,000 miles of new extra-high-voltage transmission lines at a cost of between $5 billion and $10 billion. Because of the project’s scope and size, it likely will be built in stages over a 10-year period. AEP will collaborate with all appropriate parties within the region, including local utilities.

“The 765-kV line would cost less than half as much to build on a dollar-per-megawatt basis,” Morris said. “Extra-high--voltage 765-kV transmission lines operate more efficiently than lower voltage lines, reducing the amount of electricity that needs to be generated by reducing line loss—electricity lost during transport. The new 765-kV designs have line losses of less than 1 percent, compared with losses as high as 10 percent for lower voltage alternatives.”

AEP delivers electricity to more than 5 million customers in 11 states and ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning nearly 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the United States.