Mitsui to invest in U.S. smart-grid project

Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co will invest about $12 million in U.S. energy trading company Tres Amigas LLC.  Tres Amigas is involved in a project to link North America’s three primary power grids – the Western Interconnection, Eastern Interconnection and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – using smart grid technology.

Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co will invest about $12 million in U.S. energy trading company Tres Amigas LLC.  Tres Amigas is involved in a project to link North America’s three primary power grids – the Western Interconnection, Eastern Interconnection and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – using smart grid technology.

Tres Amigas (Santa Fe, N.M. USA) plans to build a “superstation” in New Mexico to link the three grids, while an IT system manages electricity exchange between grids based on demand and prices.

The buildout of the $1.5 billion superstation is expected to occur in stages. Engineering design for Phase I is well underway, with construction scheduled to commence in 2012, and Phase I commercial operations scheduled for 2015, says Tres Amigas.

According to the company, this will be the first “high capacity renewable energy hub.” The initial power transfer capacity will be 750 MW between the Western and Eastern grids. Once energized, energy producers and marketers will be able to transfer sizable blocks of power from region to region, according to the company.

The goal of the superstation is to create renewable power from intermittent renewable sources such as solar and wind.

Mitsui (Tokyo, Japan), which may get about 20% stake in the company, will supply power transmission equipment and propose IT system designs.

Power grid technology supplier American Superconductor Corp (Devens, Mass., USA) holds a similarly sized stake to Mitsui’s planned investment.