Clean Line Energy Partners, the Houston-based developer of wind-linked HVDC transmission lines, has seen the departure of several of its top executives and narrowed its focus to a single project: the Grain Belt Express.
Clean Line has announced the sale of all of its non-transmission development assets, including an interest in a 600MW wind project and a series of wind and battery-storage developments, to Quantum Energy Partners.
Separately, Quantum, a private-equity firm previously focused mainly on oil and gas, has hired Clean Line’s chief operating officer Jayshree Desai and its chief financial officer David Berry to run ConnectGen, a newly launched renewables developer also based in Houston.
Those announcements follow the recent sales of Clean Line’s Western Spirit transmission project to Pattern Development and a key portion of its Plains & Eastern project to NextEra Energy.
“With the recent sale of our non-transmission assets to Quantum, as well as the sales of our Plains & Eastern project, Mesa Canyons wind farm, and Western Spirit project, a core team at Clean Line is now solely dedicated to advancing the Grain Belt Express project,” Clean Line chairman Michael Skelly said in a statement.
The shift represents a major downscaling of ambition for privately held Clean Line, which as recently as last year appeared to still be actively developing a number of multi-billion-dollar transmission projects in nearly a dozen states.
The remaining bright spot for Clean Line is its Grain Belt Express project, which recently scored a significant legal win in Missouri, with the state’s Supreme Court ruling that regulators had been wrong to reject the project.
Although a number of regulatory hurdles remain, the Grain Belt Express now appears to have a good chance of succeeding in the years ahead, with Missouri regulators having previously determined that the project is in the state’s best interest due to the jobs and low-cost power it would bring.
Merchant HVDC lines like those advocated by Clean Line were once seen by many in the US wind industry as an obvious solution for linking the country’s wind-rich interior to larger population centres closer to the coasts.
But developing such projects has proved painstakingly slow and difficult, with a number of Clean Line’s projects suffering regulatory and commercial setbacks over the years.
Constructing power lines is increasingly difficult throughout the US, as evidenced by the Northern Pass fiasco in the northeast, wherein Massachusetts contracted for hydropower coming down from Quebec, only to have the necessary transmission lines rejected in New Hampshire.
Massachusetts has since turned to a separate transmission project owned by Avangrid that would bring the hydropower down through Maine.