LA PORTE CITY, Iowa – Black Hawk County residents got a first glimpse Tuesday of plans to move wind-genereated electricity across Iowa into the eastern half of the country.
Clean Line Energy, a Texas-based company, is planning to build 500 miles of power lines across Iowa and Illinois dubbed the Rock Island Clean Line. The Tuesday meeting was the first in Black Hawk County. More than a dozen Clean Line officials were at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3983 in La Porte City to answer questions and present project information.
The meeting didn’t have a formal presentation but instead had various displays of the project details, maps while staff were on hand to answer questions. Consruction wouldn’t begin until 2013 at the earliest and would require numerous regulatory approvals. An exact location for the line, within a designated project corridor, has yet to be deetermined.
Clean Line officials said they have plans to compensate land owners for the easement they would need and for any crop damage during construction.
“If they do what they say they’ll do, it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Larry Anton, who owns farm land near La Porte City.
Anton and his wife, Judy Anton, have been through similar situations. Their land is already crossed by high voltage transmission lines and a rural water main. Anton would prefer not to have the project cross his property, but adds he understands the need.
“Everybody wants electricity,” he said. “We got all this wind generation, but we don’t have any people.”
Maps on display at the meeting identify wide areas where the transmission lines could go. As company officials get more information, they will narrow the corridor. That still left some land owners guessing as to whether the plans would affect them.
“We just want to know where the main place is it’s going to come through,” said Paul Matthiesen. “I hope I’m not affected.”
Cary Kottler, Clean Line project development manager, said meetings like Tuesday will help the company develop the final map.
“We didn’t want to come in here with a line on the map,” Kottler said. Factors such as other buildings, river crossings and wildlife areas have already been taken into account, but even more information will be needed before a final route is chosen, he added.
“We’ve done a lot of homework before coming here.”
Preliminary plans include possible corridors across Grundy County; western and southern portions of Black Hawk County; and southern Buchanan County.
Kottler said the lack of transmission to markets that need electricity is hurting wind energy growth in Iowa.
“Right now, developers would love to build new wind farms,” Kottler said. “What they tell us is, if you build us a pathway to the market, we will build more turbines.”
Counties would be compensated at a rate of $7,000 per mile of line each year. By law, Clean Line can’t discuss compensation for private property owners until property owners are advised by the Iowa Utilities Board on their rights.
The plan would move wind generated energy from western Iowa about 500 miles into Illinois where it will plug into a grid to provide power to 1.4 million people across the eastern Midwest and to the east coast.
Kottler describes the plan as a super highway for energy. However, the highway won’t have any exits in Iowa. The transmission lines will be direct current, which Kottler said will lose only about 5 percent of the power over the Rock Island route. Conventional power transmission lines are alternating current, which would lose up to 15 percent of the wind-generated power, Kottler said. Making the direct current energy usable requires a $250 million converter station, which will be built at each end of the line. Kottler said building stations in Iowa wouldn’t be cost effective.
Kottler said although energy won’t be used directly by Iowans, the state will up to a $7 billion wind energy investment in future wind turbine construction. It will also help the U.S. as a whole by increasing the use of clean, renewable energy in larger markets and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 10 million tons per year.
Vern Fish, executive director of tje Black Hawk County Conservation Board, was also at the Tuesday meeting. He said company officials have been open with their plans. If the lines go over a prairie or grassland area, Fish said that would mean Clean Line would provide assistance to keep trees from sprouting in the area.
“That could actually be pretty helpful,” he said.
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