Blog Post

Startup building super grid hub raises funds

Tres Amigas, a startup with an audacious proposal to build a transmission hub to connect the U.S.’s three major grids in the east, west and Texas, is raising funding to try to move forward with its design. According to a filing, Tres Amigas is looking to raise $15 million in equity, and has secured $3 million of that round.

Fifteen million dollars will be just a drop in the bucket on the way to Tres Amigas’ plan to build a so-called “SuperStation” — the mother of all substations — which would convert alternating current (AC) from the three grids into direct current (DC) and then back to AC in order to move the electricity back out onto the three grids in an efficient and reliable way. Two years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported (s nws) that the project could cost a whopping $1 billion to build.

The SuperStation is supposed to use superconducting cables from American Superconductor Corp., (s AMSC) which can carry 5,000 MW of electricity and are super-chilled to minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Many transmission leaders think high-voltage direct current power lines will be a key to remaking the power grid.

Tres Amigas’ project at one time had an endorsement from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to build the transmission link in the city of Clovis. While the U.S. already has a couple of substations that link two of the nation’s grids via the AC-DC conversion, Tres Amigas says a substation in Clovis would be the first one that would be able to synchronize electricity from all three grids. That means the three grids could finally share power, and it will create what Tres Amigas calls, “a power market hub.”

Phil Harris, the former CEO of PJM Interconnection, founded the company, and Tres Amigas plans to charge a fee for use of the SuperStation. While the project has a lot of hurdles ahead, I’m excited to see some outside-the-box business going on in the heavily regulated transmission sector.

Some of the potential hurdles for the project include: It will need a lot of fund-raising, bureaucracy and working with FERC, and NIMBY for people in the area of the SubStation and the transmission lines connecting it.

Tres Amigas has teamed up with other startup partners to work on the project, including battery grid storage company Xtreme Power, and energy software provider Viridity Energy. In August, Tres Amigas said it planned to submit filings with FERC later this year, which would include a first “anchor” customer contract.